Tinnitus and Hearing Loss

About 90 percent of people with tinnitus also have hearing loss in some frequencies, though many people may not even realize they have both conditions. Tinnitus usually follows the pattern of your loss. If you have trouble hearing high frequencies, your tinnitus is often a high-pitched ringing or hissing. When your loss is in only one ear, you’ll usually only have tinnitus in that ear.

Why would a loss of sound perception cause phantom sounds? Let’s review the pathway for sounds: A sound wave enters your ear and arrives at the middle and inner ear, the location of the cochlea, a fluid-filled area with hair cells. The hair cells turn the vibration in the fluid into electrical signals that reach the brain through your auditory nerve.
Illness, injury, noise or aging can damage the hair cells and cause hearing loss. When your brain gets less information from the cochlea, your auditory system may compensate by becoming more sensitive the technical term is “raising the gain” much like when you turn up the volume on a radio when the signal is low or nearly gone. This may be why some people with tinnitus, like Dido, are especially sensitive to loud noise.

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