Evidence that Tinnitus Negatively Affects Cognition
Imagine you’re writing an exam. You’re concentrating heavily on the material, weighing different variables in your mind, balancing equations, and remembering facts from 2:30 AM (which was six hours ago). Suddenly, a fire alarm goes off, and doesn’t stop screeching. It cuts into your ears, and the examiner looks at you.
“Thirty minutes left.”
You try to complete the test, but it’s difficult – the loud sound persists, distracting you, consuming valuable cognitive resources, wasting attention, sapping focus.
This is what it’s like to think with tinnitus. Indeed, many patients afflicted with tinnitus often comment on how they “hate quiet rooms” and have “difficulty concentrating.”
Scientific evidence has now backed up these anecdotal reports.
One study, entitled “Tinnitus and its effect on working memory and attention,” found the following:
“results from this study suggest that tinnitus affects cognition to the extent that it reduces cognitive capacity needed to perform tasks that require voluntary, conscious, effortful, and strategic control.”
The same study was profiled in a ScienceDaily story on the subject.
Individuals with chronic, moderate tinnitus do more poorly on demanding working memory and attention tests than those without tinnitus, according to research conducted at the University of Western Sydney.
That’s why treating tinnitus is important – theoretically, if these declines in cognitive performance are caused by tinnitus, then a significant reduction in tinnitus volume should improve cognition.