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What Causes Tinnitus?

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Causes of Tinnitus

Tinnitus, often described as a buzzing or ringing sound that does not go away, can be caused by any of the following:

• exposure to loud noise • a side effect of medication
• ear or head injuries • diseases of the ear
• emotional stress • ear infections


The physical cause of tinnitus typically involves damaging the tiny hairs located in the inner ear that sense sound waves. When stimulated by sound waves the hairs of the "hair cells" move back and forth.  That motion is then translated by the hair cell body into nerve signals transmitted to the brain for deciphering into what we call sounds.

Hair cells of inner ear are shown below in purple.

Hair Cell From Inner Ear Translates Sound Waves Into Nerve Signals. Illustration:
Hair Cell From Inner Ear Translates Sound Waves Into Nerve Signals. Illustration:


The first minutes of this video explains the mechanism our brain uses to create tinnitus.

Why Tinnitus Doesn't Go Away

As in the video, the portion of the human brain that deciphers the signals from our ears (Auditory Cortex) is expecting to always be processing sounds from our surroundings.

The auditory cortex fires it's nerves spontaneously compensating for a lack of sounds to process due to partial hearing loss.

The Auditory Cortex is made up of sub sections that are tuned to a small slices of the total frequency range we hear.  Once there is hearing loss due to damage in the inner ear, a slice of the Auditory Cortex is no longer busy decoding nerve signals from the ears. To compensate for a lack of input, the auditory cortex begins to fire it's nerves spontaneously and begins to synchronize itself with another sub section of the Auditory Cortex. Now the tinnitus sufferer begins to "hear" phantom noises.

As time goes on the pattern strengthens allowing the sounds we call tinnitus to become permanently embedded in our consciousness.

Tinnitus Is Treatable

Although there is no known cure, tinnitus is treatable. We strongly recommend that anyone with tinnitus in Winnipeg consult a hearing professional experienced in tinnitus treatment for a thorough hearing test and assessment.

For more information about treating tinnitus call us at (204) 788-1083.

What Is Tinnitus?
What Causes Tinnitus?


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