Tinnitus, also known as “ringing in the ears,” is a condition where individuals hear a constant ringing or buzzing in one or both ears. This is a common illness nowadays, and while not fatal, it can significantly lower your quality of life. Experts say that things like old-age hearing loss, wax buildup, and Ménière’s disease cause this condition. But those aren’t the only causes. A growing number of studies suggest that heavy EMF exposure also massively contributes to this increase in tinnitus patients.
Common Causes of Tinnitus
The American Tinnitus Association (ATA) says that over 50 million Americans suffer from tinnitus. In 20 million of those cases, it has developed into a chronic form.
According to researchers, people who have age-related hearing loss and those exposed to loud noises daily are prone to this condition. EMF is also said to be one of the primary causes of tinnitus. I’ll talk more about the relationship between heavy EMF exposure and tinnitus later in this post.
Types of Tinnitus
Researchers have identified four different types of tinnitus. These are subjective, objective, neurological, and somatic. This is why there can be a massive dissimilarity in symptoms between two tinnitus patients. Let’s explore these four types of tinnitus.
Have you noticed a ringing sound in your ears immediately after hearing loud music? That’s called subjective tinnitus — the most common form of this condition.
Subjective tinnitus is not harmful most of the time, and it goes away after a while. But in some cases, it can last for 3–12 months.
If this happens, doctors can treat you with hearing aids that play a calming noise to distract you from the ringing, buzzing, or other sounds until your symptoms naturally fade away.
This is a more serious one. Neurological tinnitus, also called sensory tinnitus, impairs your brain’s auditory function. In most cases, doctors find out that a patient suffering from neurological tinnitus also has Meniere’s disease.
Meniere’s disease is a disorder that targets the inner ear, which is responsible for hearing and balance. If you have this disease, you’ll constantly have a sensation of spinning. The symptoms of neurological tinnitus and Meniere’s disease share a huge similarity.
To date, there’s no conclusive understanding as to what causes Meniere’s disease. Researchers believe that changes in the inner-ear tube fluid, autoimmune disease, and allergies may be the starting point of this condition.
Neurological tinnitus is often treated with motion sickness and anti-nausea medications along with physical therapy like vestibular rehabilitation exercises.
The symptoms of somatic tinnitus are not constant, but rather appear intermittently. It is influenced by sudden unintended movements in your body, like muscle spasms in the neck or ear. The word somatic comes from the Greek word sōmatikos, which literally means “from the body”.
Many people have reported that simple body movements and dental problems can also trigger somatic tinnitus. Research has shown that sound and massage therapy can prove helpful in treating this condition.
This is the rarest form of tinnitus, and it is also the only one that can be heard from outside. Although, you’ll need to place a stethoscope outside the patient’s external auditory canal to hear it.
Objective tinnitus is associated with depression, anxiety, and insomnia. But fortunately, this is the one that has the potential for a permanent fix.
Is Tinnitus an Auditory Hallucination?
The short answer is no. When you’re suffering from tinnitus, it is easy to think that you’re suffering from a psychological condition. After all, you’re hearing sounds that no one except you can hear.
Tinnitus is a condition where you hear some form of tonal sensations. On the other hand, auditory hallucinations come from a psychiatric illness — mainly schizophrenia. The only relationship between these two health problems is that persistent tinnitus may, according to some sources, increase one’s risk for auditory hallucinations (especially in patients already suffering depression).
Apart from that, the two conditions are very much separate. If you have tinnitus, you’ll hear things like high-frequency tones and clicking or frying-like noises. But patients suffering from auditory hallucination often report hearing talking voices.
EMF & The Auditory System
EMF is tasteless, odorless, and you can’t touch it. But this doesn’t change the fact that it is physically present in our environment, and it can negatively affect your health.
Allan H. Frey published a study in 1961 entitled “Human auditory system response to modulated electromagnetic energy,” in which he discussed the microwave auditory effect (MAE), commonly referred to as the Frey effect.
MAE is an effect where individuals can perceive audible sounds like clicks, or even speech, induced by pulsed or modulated radio frequencies.
In 2003, the US Navy hired a contractor named Wave Band Corp to design an MAE system with the ability to “temporarily incapacitate personnel through remote application.” There also have been reports that the use of MAE as a non-lethal form of weaponry is global. In fact, the existence of the Frey effect is one of the key reasons microwave weapons are thought to be behind the attacks on US diplomats in Cuba in recent years.
Whether or not EMF is being used as a weapon is a whole other conversation. What we can learn from this right now is that EMF can cause tinnitus-like issues. And with the level of EMF pollution in our environment right now, it’s increasingly likely to be a major contributing factor in the development of these conditions.
Direct Link Between EMF & Tinnitus
Many research studies conducted in the past few decades confirm the associations between excessive or long-term EMF exposure and tinnitus development.
For instance, a 2010 study found that frequent cell phone users often suffer from chronic tinnitus.
These researchers gathered 100 tinnitus patients for the study. They did a comparative analysis of these patients with non-sufferers.
After a careful evaluation, they found that the risk of tinnitus development was significantly higher in people who had been using cell phones for more than four years. They also discovered that most people develop tinnitus in their dominant ear — the one which they use to talk on cell phones.
Another group from Brazil did a systematic review of 45 scientific articles that discusses the link between EMF and tinnitus. In their report, they state that radiofrequency EMF waves “provoke proved thermogenic effects and potential biological and genotoxic effects.”
They also suggest that there may be a link between tinnitus and electrosensitivity. “Some individuals are more sensitive to electromagnetic exposure (electrosensitivity), and thus, present earlier symptoms,” say the authors of the study. “There may be a common pathophysiology between this electrosensitivity and tinnitus.”
The researchers conclude with the following.
“There are already reasonable evidences to suggest caution for using mobile phones to prevent auditory damage and the onset or worsening of tinnitus.”
Tinnitus: A Commonly Reported Symptom of EHS
EHS (Electro Hypersensitivity) is a condition in which an individual is far more sensitive to EMF than a healthy person. Think of it as being like an allergy: if you’re exposed to an allergen, your body starts reacting negatively and causing health issues.
I have a separate post with a detailed explanation of EHS, its prevention, and treatment. So do give it a read.
As I mentioned in the section above, tinnitus is one of the most commonly reported symptoms of EHS. So, if you hear unusual clicking or constant ringing in your ears, there is a chance that you’re at an early phase of EHS development.
EMF and Hearing Loss
Besides chronic tinnitus development, constant EMF exposure has also been linked with permanent loss of hearing.
The Faculty of Medicine at the University of Malaya did a research study in 2011 in which they found an association between heavy cell phone use and permanent loss of hearing.
This study contained 100 volunteers. 62 of them had no hearing loss, whereas 38 people had trouble hearing, at least in one of their ears. While comparing the general habits of these two groups, they found that the amount of time the 38 people spent talking on phones was significantly higher than the rest.
Numerous animal studies also show that EMF directly damages the auditory system. Here’s one such study, which concludes:
“The results support that long-term exposure to a GSM-like 2100MHz electromagnetic fields causes an increase in neuronal degeneration and apoptosis in the auditory system.”
“The results support that chronic electromagnetic field exposure may cause damage by leading to neuronal degeneration of the auditory system.”
The botttom line is that regular use of cell phones and Bluetooth headsets exposes your sensitive ear organs to massive EMF emissions, which can cause these organs to fail over time. And once the damage is done, even if you lower your EMF exposure, some organs like the organ of Corti never recover to their original form.
This is why it’s important to take action towards mitigating your EMF exposure now. You can do this by making changes in the way you talk on phones. For example, use the phone’s loudspeaker function or a wired headset.
Also, anti-radiation headsets do a good job of preventing your phone’s EMF from reaching your sensitive ear organs.
Treatment for Tinnitus
Most of the time, doctors can’t find the primary cause of your tinnitus problem, so the treatment is complicated. But in recent years, medical science has made huge progress in developing treatments for this condition.
Here’s a list of some treatments that are available today.
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy or TRT is a form of habituation therapy. In this treatment, the counselor tries to habituate their patients to the constant ringing and buzzing.
In addition to this, they use sound therapy to minimize the tones. But in case the tinnitus doesn’t go away, with TRT, the patient gets accustomed to the tinnitus symptoms.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT is also an effective treatment for tinnitus. It follows a similar pattern as TRT, where a licensed professional will help the patient develop coping techniques to make tinnitus’ symptoms less bothersome.
Irish researchers recently developed a new neuromodulation device called Lenire. This device uses headphones and a tongue-zapping cord that generates a low amount of electricity to relieve the patient’s symptoms.
So far, the Neuromod treatment has proved highly promising. In a trial of 326 tinnitus sufferers, 86 percent experienced a substantial reduction in symptoms. What’s more, the improvements persisted throughout a 12-month follow-up period.
The researchers are currently conducting another large clinical trial to further test and tweak the device, with a view to establishing bimodal neuromodulation as a clinically recommended treatment for tinnitus.
Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or rTMS also functions in a similar way as Lenire. It sends pulsed electromagnetic fields (pEMF) to the patient’s affected organs, activating the body’s healing mechanism.
Note that this treatment is done in a controlled setting with a low-frequency electromagnetic field. EMF therapy, when given at a precise dose, has been shown to cure several medical conditions. This is why modern medical science has developed a whole range of EMF-based devices to treat patients.
I have a separate post that discusses how EMF is therapeutically used in medical science.
I brought this up because, while low EMF doses given by experts have proven helpful in treating several conditions, constant exposure to heavy EMF, like the ones from our gadgets, creates adverse health effects.
As I mentioned in this post, there are many reasons why an individual develops tinnitus. Still, the heavy EMF pollution in our environment is undoubtedly a big contributor to this problem.
EMF-induced tinnitus may seem harmless at first, but it can have a huge impact on your life. That’s why it’s worth putting a little time and thought into how you can start mitigating your EMF exposure today.
I have hundreds of posts on my website that will help you reduce your EMF exposure and live a safer, healthier life. The SYB Healthy Living Tips are a good place to start.