As per the study of American Tinnitus Association, around 50 million people in the United States are adversely affected by Tinnitus. People who hear noises and phantom sounds like train whistles, whooshing noises, cricket noises or whines are the primary patients of tinnitus. Tinnitus severity often varies day to day.
Fatima Husain, speech and hearing science professor of the University of Illinois who laid the study, said early studies showed that tinnitus is linked with increased anxiety, irritability, stress, and depression, all of which are associated with the brain’s emotional processing systems.
She then decided to employ fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) brain scans just to understand better how tinnitus influences the brain’s aptness to process emotions.
There were three groups in her study; individuals with minor to moderate hearing loss and minor tinnitus, individuals with minor to moderate hearing loss without tinnitus, and a control group of age-matched individuals without hearing loss or tinnitus. Each individual was put in an fMRI machine and had to hear a standardized set of 30 unpleasant, 30 Pleasant, and 30 sensitively neutral sounds. The contestants pressed a button to differentiate each sound as unpleasant, pleasant or neutral.
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And the reports depict that normal hearing and tinnitus groups reacted more hastily to emotion-inducing sounds than to neutral sounds, while people with hearing loss had a similar reaction time to each set of sound. Overall, the tinnitus group’s response times were slower than the response times of those with normal hearing.
A brain region associated with emotional processing, amygdala reacts slower in the tinnitus and hearing loss individuals than in the individuals with normal hearing.
Due to the umpteen numbers of individuals who suffer from tinnitus in the U.S., a group that consists of many combat veterans, Husain is hoping that her group’s future research will be able to improve tinnitus patient’s quality of life.