If you’ve noticed that your tinnitus (ringing in your ears) worsens when exposed to everyday sounds in your environment, you may be experiencing reactive tinnitus.
According to Brian Taylor, Au.D., senior director of audiology at Signia, “Reactive tinnitus is a form of tinnitus that changes in loudness, quality or pitch, in response to average or even low-level noise.”1
Causes of Reactive Tinnitus
Any average-sounding noise you encounter could be a potential reactive tinnitus trigger, from a car horn blaring to crickets chirping to a song you play on your guitar.
Fortunately, while the resulting discomfort from the heightened tinnitus symptoms may be annoying, it is usually short-lived, with people tending to experience less severe noises or habituating over time.
Is Reactive Tinnitus the Same as Hyperacusis?
The short answer is no.
People with hyperacusis have an intense oversensitivity to normal sounds, making them seem painfully loud. For example, someone with hyperacusis may find their cat’s meow as loud as a lion’s roar.
Reactive tinnitus, on the other hand, causes an uptick in tinnitus symptoms in response to sound stimuli. Interestingly, 30% to 50% of people with tinnitus also have hyperacusis.2
Both conditions are likely the result of blockages impacting the nervous system.
“The underlying problem in hyperacusis and reactive tinnitus is thought to be an increase in neural inhibition or activity, in response to various stimuli,” said Dr. Taylor.1
Diagnosis & Management Options
Since no imaging or laboratory test can determine if you have reactive tinnitus, your doctor will make a diagnosis based on your symptom history.
They may also ask you to complete the Sound Sensitive Tinnitus Index (SSTI), a self-reporting questionnaire, take the Loudness Discomfort Level Test, check for any underlying physical issues and test your hearing.
Common Management Options for Reactive Tinnitus Include:
- Trying tinnitus sound therapy, which combines counseling with sound therapy.
- Changing hearing device settings to ensurea too-loud volume won’t trigger reactive tinnitus.
- Wearing hearing protection to minimize your level of noise exposure.
Think you may have reactive tinnitus? Schedule a consultation today with our tinnitus experts to start finding relief.
1 Whelan, C. (2023). What is reactive tinnitus? Healthy Hearing. https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/53507-What-is-reactive-tinnitus
2 Refat, F et al. (2021). Co-occurrence of hyperacusis accelerates with tinnitus burden over time and requires medical care.Frontiers in Neurology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8012887/#:~:text=