How Tinnitus Changes EmotionsIt is estimated that nearly 40 million Americans suffer from Tinnitus and that ¼ of these people have tinnitus so severely that it interferes with everyday life. It also affects nearly ⅓ of all people over the age of 65 and is often associated with age related hearing loss. To better understand Tinnitus and how it can affect the brain, Fatima Husain and a team of researchers at the University of Illinois are trying to see how the brain responds to tinnitus if all levels.
Fatima Husain and Edward McAuley who are both professors at the University of Illinois are working with two neuroscience graduate students to research tinnitus and how the brain processes emotion. It has been documented that hearing loss can lead to dementia and overall cognitive decline, so this group of researchers is curious how tinnitus can change the brain’s ability to process emotion. Living with chronic tinnitus can be extremely stressful, frustrating, and can lead to social isolation. During the study, the researchers saw that people who are able to cope with their tinnitus and complete normal daily functions actually process emotions in a different part of the brain compared to people who cannot cope with their tinnitus as well. They looked at how people with mild tinnitus, severe tinnitus, and those with no tinnitus processed emotion by using an fMRI(an imaging source that allows doctors to view changes in blood oxygen levels alongside brain activity) when they were exposed to different noises. The noises ranged from pleasant sounds to white noise to unpleasant noises. During the fMRI the researchers saw that people with mild tinnitus had more brain activity in different areas of the brain than the people who did not have any tinnitus. The study also required patients to have their hearing, attention span, emotional response, and sleep all examined and tested. The study revealed that people who are not as distressed over their tinnitus used more of their frontal lobe which is known for its control of impulse control and planning. Higher activity in the frontal lobe suggests that these people may be able to better respond to the emotional stress often associated with tinnitus.
Have questions about tinnitus? You can schedule an appointment at Krista Szalc, Audiology, PLLC is a licensed hearing health care provider in Western New York with hearing centers in Dansville, Hornell and Wellsville. We would be happy to discuss treatment options and to help you manage your tinnitus.