Tinnitus can be one of the most frustrating and disturbing disorders that one can experience. While many would say they experience tinnitus, a smaller but significant percentage of those with tinnitus truly suffer from it. Tinnitus is not a disease. Tinnitus does not cause hearing loss, but tinnitus can be associated with hearing loss. One can also have tinnitus even if they have normal hearing. Tinnitus has been defined by the American Tinnitus Association as the “perception of sound when no actual external noise is present. While it is commonly referred to as “ringing in the ears,” tinnitus can manifest many different perceptions of sound, including buzzing, hissing, whistling, swooshing, and clicking. In some rare cases, tinnitus patients report hearing music. Tinnitus can be both an acute (temporary) condition and a chronic (ongoing) health malady.”
Sensorineural hearing loss is often associated with tinnitus. The incidence of tinnitus rises with age. Tinnitus has also been associated with metabolic disorders such as diabetes, autoimmune disorders, blood vessel disorders, head and neck trauma, and ototoxic medications. Additionally, it has been associated with traumatic brain injury and other medical conditions.
There is no universal cure for tinnitus, but management can help make it less of a distraction. Because tinnitus is a side effect of an underlying condition, identifying the problem may lead to a medical or surgical solution. The cure rates for pulsatile tinnitus are relatively high once your specialist identifies the problem.
While there is no known cure for tinnitus unless the underlying cause can be identified, audiologists have developed some outstanding tinnitus treatment programs and methods in recent years to help patients with chronic tinnitus.
When seeking treatment for tinnitus management, a medical evaluation is required to rule out any treatable medical conditions associated with the tinnitus. Our approach to tinnitus management at North Shore Audio-Vestibular Lab is individualized to provide optimal intervention. While it is true that at this point in time there is no blanket cure for tinnitus, there are many things that can be done to ameliorate the negative effects of the tinnitus. Successful treatment requires a comprehensive tinnitus evaluation to identify potential etiology of the tinnitus and interventional options.
A standard treatment option utilizes hearing aids, as nearly 90% of those with tinnitus also experience hearing loss. Hearing aids are used to amplify background sounds, which can mask tinnitus. These devices can also help you distinguish one sound from another, improving communication and helping with focus and concentration difficulties. Many hearing aids come packaged with noise generators to replace ambient sounds if amplification alone does not reduce tinnitus.
In addition to standard counseling, behavioral therapy is frequently used to help tinnitus patients manage their emotional reactions to their symptoms. Learning emotional coping techniques and developing a range of strategies you can deploy can help to reduce the side effects of tinnitus. These side effects can include depression, insomnia and fatigue.
Retraining exercises can reduce your reaction to tinnitus, decrease your awareness of the sound and eventually eliminate any feelings of annoyance associated with tinnitus. During counseling, your audiologist will walk you through retraining exercises you can implement at home and may refer you to a counselor for additional behavioral therapy.
Avoiding silence is a crucial part of successful retraining therapy. You aren’t limited to behind-the-ear wearable devices and many choose to use various mediums, including mp3 files, smartphone apps and sound generators.
Our knowledgeable and experienced audiologists will help you select the best sounds that mask your tinnitus effectively but aren’t annoying or intrusive. Common options include:
- White noise
- Gentle music
- Nature sounds
This is important since your hearing devices will play the selected sounds 24 hours a day.
Counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be practical in helping you manage your tinnitus symptoms by reducing the stress, anxiety and sleeplessness that are often associated with tinnitus.
Behavioral therapy can be effective and provide a range of coping skills to help you manage tinnitus symptoms and the associated stress and depression that often accompany the condition.
You Aren’t Alone with Your Tinnitus
You aren’t alone. We understand how isolating tinnitus can be and we can help you take the next step in your tinnitus management. A thorough evaluation is the first step so our specialists can determine if your tinnitus has a physical cause.
In some instances, tinnitus may be cured. But for most, the treatment option is based on managing the tinnitus. We will help you find the resources, additional specialists, devices and tools you need to manage your tinnitus symptoms successfully. You aren’t alone. Call us today.