The difference between “recruitment” and tinnitus

I just want to be very clear on the difference between these two phenomena.

They’re both auditory sensory related, but have some significant differences.

Tinnitus is best described as phantom sounds. The sounds are audible to the one affected individual only, and there is no way to measure tinnitus scientifically. Only thing I can think of, is if they put me in a MRI-scanner for real-time recording and measure the activity in the parts of my brain that deals with audio-interpretation. Rather complex, I would imagine.

Tinnitus is a very subjective experience, someone might have a very high threshold of coping with heavy amounts of tinnitus, while others gets really disturbed and cannot deal with it. Tinnitus can destroy peoples lives. Psychological disturbances and substance abuse (to “num” the tinnitus, or sedate the brain in order to be able to fall asleep) is likely symptoms of severe tinnitus.

Tinnitus can sound like everything. To me it has varied, it has become better on the ear where I received my first CI, but I still have tinnitus there. Right now I have a triple-tinnitus: left ear (without CI) I can hear this hum (high current electrical power station or electrical relay station humming) as well as a sound that is resembling to a constant howling snow-storm. My right ear is pretty well masked by the CI, but the humming might appear when I’m tired, and at night, when I take off the CI, I hear this kind of FM radio crackling noise. At the worst, it is an unbelievable cacophony of all sorts of sounds. Sometimes I think I even hallucinate tinnitus while having tinnitus. It’s hard to grasp, since it is a “phantom”. It is synaptic neuron activity in the nervous system, (of which the brain is a part), which in turn is interpreted as sounds, when it is in fact NOT sounds. How weird isn’t that?

Recruitment is something else; when outside sounds enter my ear canal, and then causes vibrations to the drum and consequentially the gel-substance within my cochlea, the hair cells are triggered. Upon this triggering, the “recruitment” happens due to several factors: too much dB (meaning more energy than the hearing sense can or should handle), and massive loss of hair-cells (the destruction of hair-cells can be caused by a number of reasons: ototoxic substances, overexposure to too powerful sounds over time, various diseases that affect inner ear physiology, physical damage (violent accidents) and progressive hearing loss.

The cure?

Tinnitus has no cure, other than learning to live with it by way of stress management, and some mental tricks to take control of thought patterns and secondary reactions to the tinnitus. Everybody can learn to live with tinnitus, and can have a good life with it. Substance abuse is NOT a solution, it is only slow suicide. Seek help from professionals! If your doctor doesn’t take you seriously, go to another doctor! Do that, until you’re taken seriously!

As for recruitment, there are solutions to remedy the situation. Turn off amplification equipment like hearing aids when experiencing it. Turn the sound down. In my case, the recruitment was so bad, that when adjusting my hearing aid to a comfortable level, I felt I didn’t hear anything anymore. I have endured recruitment for so long that I had gotten used to it, and even built up a tolerance for it!

In severe cases, get a Cochlear Implant in order to provide sufficient electronic delivery of sound signals to your auditory receptors, aka hair cells.

3 Responses to “The difference between “recruitment” and tinnitus”

  1. Shy? Investigating social phobia… « Becoming Deaf in Norway 2007 Says:

    […] The difference between “recruitment” and tinnitus […]

  2. Barbara Thomson Says:

    Helpful post. I especially found it useful the fact that u have given the differrence between recruitment and tinnitus, the explaination that you have provided is very easy to understand… thanks, Barbara.

  3. April Walton Says:

    Thanks so much for the article. I also have tinnitus (four resident sounds in both ears) which I have learned to live with, but the recruitment is a different matter. After an auto injury I suffered severe headaches, tinnitus, and profound hearing loss. I was reeling from learning to deal with all these conditions and then the recruitment started. It wasn’t too bad at first but now after more than a year I find most noises painful. It has progressed rapidly and quite frankly I’m scared that if it continues I’ll not be able to cope. Right now my coping mechanism is to have very little social contact (which I hate) and wear ear plugs most of the time. I only wear my hearing aids when absolutely necessary these days. It never used to be that way, but I’m doing what I can to live a somewhat ‘normal’ life. I think the thing I miss most is being around people and activities. I have tried a “stiff upper lip” approach and found I just couldn’t function. But I thank you for your article and insights.


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