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Tinnitus may be a disorder of the Brain, not just a hearing problem



 
As a disability examiner, I occasionally came across tinnitus on disability applications. However, I don't recall that much consideration was ever given to the condition. This morning, I gained a better appreciation of what it must be like to have tinnitus and how it may make engaging in normal daily activities, including work activity, very trying.

In the NPR piece, an individual with tinnitus was interviewed while they played a tone, something you might hear during hearing testing, or audiometry. The tone was not an exact match but it approximated what many people with the condition hear ever single hour of every day. It only took me a few seconds to realize that the capacity of this condition to drive a person out of their mind is pretty significant.

The interviewee said that his ability to focus, to pay attention to work tasks, to attend meetings at his job, was eroded. He did find improvement by adopting a technique of listening to in-between-station radio static. Apparently, this had a soothing effect and somehow allowed him to begin differentiate between sounds that he needed to pay attention to (most sounds) and sounds that he could ignore, such as the constant ringing of tinnitus.

I have no idea, and neither the interviewer nor the interviewee indicated, if this technique works for many people. My own father-in-law has tinnitus, though, before now, I've never thought to ask him what it must be like or how he deals with it. However, I can only imagine that, without developing an ability to compensate, by learning how to ignore the ringing, one could find themselves in a continual state of torment. Jobs which require extreme concentration and attention, and a lack of distractions, might become extraordinarily difficult.

A medical researcher who also interviewed stated that tinnitus may not actually be a hearing disorder, per se. It may begin with hearing deficits; however, the condition itself may be a function of the brain's inability to deal with hearing loss. In other words, when a person has tinnitus, a person's brain may perceive that there is a "gap" and attempt to fill in the gap by supplying the ringing sound of tinnitus.








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For the sake of clarity, SSDRC.com is not the Social Security Administration, nor is it associated or affiliated with SSA. This site is a personal, private website that is published, edited, and maintained by former caseworker and former disability claims examiner, Tim Moore, who was interviewed by the New York Times on the topic of Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in an article entitled "The Disability Mess" and also by the Los Angeles Times on the subject of political attempts to weaken the Social Security Disability system.

The goal of the site is to provide information about how Social Security Disability and SSI work, the idea being that qualified information may help claimants pursue their claims and appeals, potentially avoiding time-consuming mistakes. If you find the information on this site helpful and believe it would be helpful to others, feel free to share links to its homepage or other pages on website resource pages, blogs, or social media. Copying of this material, however, is prohibited.

To learn more about the author, please visit the SSDRC.com homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.