The CDC reports that nearly 15% of people living in the United States experience some degree of tinnitus in their lives. The brain is constantly taking care of everything we need it to, from bodily functions like digestion and our sleep cycles to the voluntary movements and actions that we perform each day. Sometimes, in the face of stress, illness, or injury, the brain can maladapt and cause us to experience certain symptoms that affect our day-to-day lives. Tinnitus is a condition that is categorized by constant ringing in the ears, and it’s easy to understand how this can be immensely frustrating and even defeating to live with.
The human brain has an extraordinary ability. It’s called neuroplasticity, and it provides us with the power to rewire neuronal connections when need be and to improve the health and function of our own brains. We’re going to take a closer look at what tinnitus is, what causes it, and whether or not it can be successfully addressed through the brain’s capacity to form new and lasting neural connections.
Tinnitus is a condition defined by a constant buzzing or ringing in the ears, and while there is no singular known cause, tinnitus usually begins after an acute exposure to a very loud sound such as an explosion. However, tinnitus can also begin when no particularly loud sound was experienced. The key to note, regardless of the initial cause, is that the ringing sound is not heard externally at all – rather, it is produced when there is something wrong in the auditory processing system of the brain. Tinnitus can understandably become very frustrating and challenging to live with since the ringing sound cannot be tuned out or turned off. If the cause of the tinnitus is from another condition, such as one within the circulatory system, the treatment of this will typically alleviate or cure the tinnitus. Tinnitus can vary in its severity, and each person that lives with it may have a different experience in what they hear, for instance buzzing or clicking instead of ringing.
With neuroplasticity, the brain is able to adapt and change itself over time through the application of brain training exercises. Researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas discovered that utilizing neuroplasticity and performing vagus nerve stimulation might be a viable solution for tinnitus in this study. It’s not uncommon for individuals living with tinnitus to be told that all they can do is mask the sound or simply ignore it. This does not have to be the case by any means. It does take the right mindset and determination to rewire the brain to alleviate tinnitus, because a large part of this process is altering how the brain perceives sensory input and the way it works to comprehend it. Integrating exercises like yoga, slow movement, and breathwork can be enormously helpful when working to train the brain and changing its perceptions in a beneficial way. The British Tinnitus Association outlines that practicing mindfulness can be extremely useful in amplifying the quality of life in those with this condition through becoming more aware of other aspects in the present moment and focusing less on the symptoms of tinnitus. Other treatments such as music therapy can also work to rewire the neurons responsible for auditory processing that are directly associated with acute tinnitus in particular, which you can read about here.
Through neuroplasticity, we are able to alter so much and improve our quality of life when it is applied intentionally and consistently. Since there is no singular or even known cure for tinnitus, harnessing the power that the brain has with neuroplasticity is ideal, since it is working to solve the problem at the source. Many people end up living with tinnitus for many years because no medical interventions have ever worked to lessen the symptoms enough, and they decide to just accept this new reality and try to ignore the ringing or buzzing. We know now that this doesn’t have to be the case, and that the brain is malleable and capable of reshaping the neural connections within it when it comes to a condition such as this.
At re-origin, we are working to better understand all of the different illnesses and conditions, whether mental or physical, that neuroplasticity can help to address from a root cause level. We are an online community that has compiled some of the very best resources and information surrounding neuroplasticity and we have experienced firsthand how much it can change lives for the better. We are aiming to help anyone else that has been in this same boat so that they, too, can channel this amazing skill that the brain holds so that they can begin living a happier and healthier life.