The auditory condition is actually much more common than most would think.
In the movie “A Star Is Born,” actor Bradley Cooper plays a beloved musician named Jackson Maine. As a singer and songwriter, Maine lives and breathes by his music, but what fans can’t see is that he’s struggling.
Maine suffers from a serious case of tinnitus, an auditory condition often associated with hearing ringing or other noises such as buzzing or clicking. Seeing his character deal with the health issue shined a light on the little talked about condition.
Tinnitus is a sign that something is not quite right in your auditory system. Though it can be a very serious condition, don’t assume your turmoil will be as bad as Cooper’s character. The condition usually does not worsen and can be effectively managed if it does get worse, explained Dr. LaGuinn Sherlock, a research audiologist and board chair of the American Tinnitus Association. And more importantly, prevention and management can significantly help.
“The biggest fear people have when they get tinnitus is that it’s going to get worse and worse and worse. And that’s not the typical or the natural course of tinnitus,” Sherlock told TODAY.
“What’s more typical is that it’ll fade away over time.”
About 25 million Americans, or 10 percent of adults, have experienced tinnitus “lasting at least five minutes in the past year,” according to the Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health. Some experts say that number is closer to 50 million.
WHAT CAUSES IT?
Tinnitus could be caused or associated with something as simple as an ear infection or earwax to things more serious such as benign growths in the middle ear or on the hearing nerve or some forms of chemotherapy.
But most commonly, the culprit is hearing loss. To prevent this, experts suggest wearing earplugs in loud places like or while attending concerts and avoiding consistent exposure to loud noise.
Dr. Troy Cascia, lead senior audiologist at University of California San Francisco Audiology Clinic, explained the science behind it.
“The auditory part of our brain, called the auditory cortex, is always expecting sound stimulation from our environment. Normally these neurons only fire when they are being stimulated by environmental sounds, but when there is hearing loss, those neurons experience auditory deprivation,” Cascia said.
That auditory deprivation caused by hearing loss can result in tinnitus.