Tinnitus And Its Impact On Emotional Processing

If you experience the ringing, buzzing, and hissing sounds of tinnitus, you understand how debilitating the disorder is. This common problem which affects roughly one out of five people is not a condition itself, but a symptom of a more significant state such as an ear injury, a circulatory system disorder, or an age-related hearing loss. Some people are not affected by their tinnitus and have no problems carrying out day-to-day activities. Research suggests that there is a direct link between tinnitus and the emotional processing of the brain. This study may explain why these people have no limitations from tinnitus.


Put simply, tinnitus is abnormal ear noise. According to the American Tinnitus Association (ATA), tinnitus is a neurological condition that affects 50 million Americans. The condition causes constant ringing and buzzing sounds in the ears, and there is no cure for it.  Treatments and lifestyle changes alleviate the symptoms of tinnitus.

Emotional Processing

Emotional processing is your ability to experience, differentiate, and express emotions you have within yourself. The absence of emotional processing causes problems with the body including:

  • Insomnia
  • Weakened immune system
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Weight gain
  • Heart disease

The processing of emotions allows you to stay focused on the task at hand without being preoccupied with other concerns. There is a correlation between this emotional processing and tinnitus.

The Connection

The University of Illinois is linking emotional processing and tinnitus in a new study. According to the research, people with tinnitus process emotional sounds in a different manner than people who do not have tinnitus. Furthermore, there is variation in the regions of the brain involved in emotional processing among those who have tinnitus.

The Research

Researchers are trying to determine how the brain adapts when an individual has a lengthy history of tinnitus. Imaging compares the brain activity of a group of people with tinnitus and a team without tinnitus. According to the results, those with tinnitus experience more engagement in various areas of the brain when exposed to sounds that trigger emotion.

The Frontal Lobe

When making comparisons among those who have tinnitus, researchers find varying degrees of the severity of their tinnitus. The individuals who report fewer tinnitus problems use a different pathway to process information. These patients utilized more of the brain’s frontal lobe which is an area that is critical for attention, planning, and impulse control. The research suggests that greater activation of the frontal lobe in the brain helps control emotional responses and reduces the stress of tinnitus.
A crucial area of the research is evaluating possible interventions to help people cope with the distress of tinnitus. Physical activity might reduce the effects of tinnitus by its influence on emotional processing in the frontal lobe. The researchers are encouraged by the findings and hope that further research will investigate this link between emotional processing and tinnitus.  Are you experiencing any of the symptoms of tinnitus? A thorough exam by a qualified professional may help to determine the cause of the symptoms.


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