Who’s ringing ….. and why?

In my daily work I encounter a lot of clients with a wide range of mostly stress-related symptoms, like fatigue, sleep problems, muscle pains, etc.

Now the last year I find a surge of clients having a different symptom on top of the others: tinnitus or ringing in the ears.  Mostly a high pitch tone, changing in intensity and frequency and always present as a background noise. Often most dominantly present in the morning after waking up.

A lot of research has been done, since many US soldiers came back from Iraq or Afghanistan with tinnitus problems, caused by loud noise and explosions, often in combination with traumatic brain injury or TBI. The problem is that tinnitus is rather hard to diagnose. Its cause, apart from the loud noises, is still unknown. In many cases tinnitus is accompanied by hearing loss, but not always. That makes it hard to come up with a rational, causal intervention as well. There is agreement about the fact that the problem is not an ear or hearing problem per se, but rather a problem with a changed signal-to-noise ratio in the temporal lobes where sound is processed.

What puzzles me is the fact that it seems to appear much more frequent than before and in the case of my clients never the result of explosions. And it presents itself with relative young people between 25-35 years old. Maybe food for epidemiological research?

I am quite sure that stress is a factor in tinnitus, but could there be other causes as well like information overload or even a still unknown environmental factor like electromagnetic load to the brain? Time will tell.