General Question

Sisa's avatar

How does my ear ring itself?

Asked by Sisa (171points) February 21st, 2008 from iPhone

Its sound ringing even when you’re deaf. Comment??

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2 Answers

brownlemur's avatar

I suppose it could be a number of things: tinnitus (random ringing in your ears with no stimulus) or something more like spontaneous oto-acoustic emissions (SOAE – mammalian ears sometimes spontaneously produce their own tonal sounds), or evoked oto-acoustic emissions (EOAE), which occurs when a transient stimulus (like a click) hits your inner ear and then you hear a ringing sound. What’s the exact difference between tinnitus and SOAE? Unclear.

As for deafness and hearing the ringing, I’m under the impression that there are many reasons for deafness. Regardless of the cause, I’m fairly certain that deaf individuals cannot hear oto-acoustic emissions. Much of the hearing mechanism happens in hair cells within the inner ear, as well as in the bones of the middle ear. Aside from all this, the sound then needs to be “interpreted” by the brain. So as you can see, there are many many many places where things can go wrong.

I am not an Audiologist, so if anyone can comment on what I have said, please do so. I could be wrong.

hearkat's avatar

Hello. I am an Audiologist.

Tinnitus is the name for any sound we hear within our ears or head. Many people with varying levels of hearing sensitivity hear tinnitus. Spontaneous Otoacoustic Emissions are audible to other people, tinnitus is not. Evoked OAEs generally are not audible to the person being tested nor to others.

At this time, no one is sure what causes tinnitus. The mechanisms within the ear are too tiny to be studied with today’s imaging techniques. When a creature dies, the ear stops functioning, so there is little to be learned from dissecting the ears. A recent study found suggests that there may be a certain neurochemical that triggers tinnitus.

I have heard ringing in my ears my entire life, and I have normal hearing. Most people do not hear the ringing until they experience a mild to a moderately-severe degree of hearing loss. Typically, those with severe to profound levels of hearing loss do not hear tinnitus.

However, there are exceptions to every rule, and there appear to be different types of tinnitus that are associated with different ear pathologies. Without knowing more details about your specific case, I can only speculate… Feel free to reply here or contact me through my profile if you want to discuss it further.

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