The Official SoundScape Weblog

The Official SoundScape Weblog

Ears to Hear

Tinnitus and the Absence of Sound

Tinnitus is the perception of a sound, commonly described as ringing, buzzing, whining, humming, whistling, or crackling. It is a condition which can result from a variety of underlying causes. Yet, a sound is heard which has no external source. To put it very simply the brain creates a sound it wants or thinks it’s supposed to hear.


I recently read an article that I think relates to tinnitus in an interesting way.

The quietest place in the world is an echo-free chamber at Orfield Laboratories in Minnesota. Among other uses, NASA uses the chamber to see how astronauts may react in the silence of space.


As the minutes tick by in absolute quiet, the human mind begins to lose its grip, causing test subjects to hallucinate.

NASA then monitors how the would-be space explorers react, and whether they can get past the very obvious awkwardness of seeing or hearing things that aren't actually there. According to lab officials, the longest anyone has lasted is 45 minutes before being allowed to hear the sweet sounds of planet Earth once again. (Quietest place on Earth mutes all sounds, messes with your head, By Tecca, read the full article


What this leads me to conclude is though we may enjoy peace and quiet, our brains do not enjoy true silence. This is one reason why the brain may start to create sounds to replace the sound it’s not hearing due to hearing damage. Some people with hearing loss have auditory hallucinations, hearing such things as a band playing as if it’s actually right there next to them. For those who have tinnitus 40 % can be helped simply by wearing hearing aids according to a study by the Better Hearing Institute (


For others the solution is not so simple, and the solution may be multifaceted. It’s nice that companies such as Siemens and Widex have started to put tinnitus masking programs in their hearing aids.


Video Clip about the Orfield Lab

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