Over 50 million Americans suffer from Tinnitus which may be perceived as a whistling, ringing, clicking, hissing, or roaring sound in one or both ears or in the head. There is no external sound causing the sensation, and though it is a common condition, it may be very upsetting to some patients. Tinnitus may cause depression, irritability, sensitivity to certain sounds, and may be quite severe in some cases.
Causes of Tinnitus:
Tinnitus may be caused by hearing loss, it may be a side effect to medications, the result of noise trauma, head injury, stress related or the result of other medical conditions.
If you have Tinnitus you should talk to your primary care physician and an Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist to rule out medical causes and to consider medical treatment if appropriate. You should also see an audiologist for a complete Audiological evaluation to establish degree of hearing loss, if any, and levels and type of tinnitus. This information is useful to the ENT. Once medical conditions and treatments are ruled out, return to your audiologist for more information on other treatment options such as Maskers, Amplification (Hearing Aids), and Tinnitus sound therapy options.
Maskers are sounds presented to the auditory system at an appropriate level to comfortably and safely reduce the perception of the tinnitus. Some people use radio static between stations to create a little bit of background noise while they are sleeping. Another option is a CD of environmental sounds. A masking device may also be prescriptively fit by an audiologist and it will look similar to a hearing aid. The audiologist will measure the frequency range and loudness of the tinnitus you perceive and match the masking signal to your tinnitus. Unfortunately, the masker only works when it is on and the tinnitus will return when the masker is turned off.
- Hearing Aids:
Preferable to maskers, if you have hearing loss, hearing aids work for you in two ways. First they amplify environmental sounds that often help to distract from the tinnitus. They also keep the auditory nerves active and vibrant which may contribute to reduction in tinnitus. New hearing aids are available that may also incorporate sound therapy within in the amplification such as musical tones, and/or bands of noise for Tinnitus Sound Therapy while wearing the hearing aid. As part of a comprehensive tinnitus evaluation, these options may be demonstrated and tested for the most effective sound therapy for your unique tinnitus perception.
- Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT):
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy focuses on the emotions caused by tinnitus and attempts to desensitize the patient by a method of habituation and conditioning. The goal is to reduce the negative emotional (autonomic nervous system) reaction to tinnitus and help the patient accept it and habituate to it in the same way we learn to ignore the refrigerator humming or background traffic noise. Maskers and pleasant environmental sounds are also tools in this multiple-visit therapy process. The patient is also taught how the auditory system works, how tinnitus occurs and by becoming familiar with the condition it is hoped to become less anxiety provoking. Please refer to the work of Pawel Jastreboff, Ph.D., Sc.D. who developed TRT in 1990. Jennifer Auer, Au.D., completed Dr. Jastreboff's tinnitus course in her Doctoral program at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry's School of Audiology (now SALUS University). TRT is not being offered by Dr. Auer at this time.
- Tinnitus Sound Therapy: There are many sound therapy options such as Habituation, Attention Diversion, and Self-Reduction of Tinnitus. Dr. Auer will provide demonstrations of these techniques as part of a comprehensive tinnitus assessment. For each tinnitus perception, only certain sounds, music, or bands of masking noise will be most effective. This is determined through demonstrations and as part of a comprehensive tinnitus assessment. Finding the right music and well fit amplification can often provide excellent relief from tinnitus with just a few sessions. Dr. Auer's goal is make Tinnitus Sound Therapy affordable and easily incorporated into every day life.
Comprehensive Tinnitus Assessment: Please allow 90 minutes for Dr. Auer to conduct a comprehensive tinnitus assessment at which time Tinnitus Therapy options are explained and demonstrated. Dr. Auer emphasizes a team approach with collaboration between ENT, Primary Physician, mental health care providers and other specialists as necessary.
DISCLAIMER: The content on this website is for general informational purposes only. Always consult your primary care physician before starting a health or wellness routine. Though tinnitus is very common you should obtain a comprehensive Audiological evaluation from a Licensed audiologist familiar and experienced with tinnitus AND consult your doctor and/or ENT regarding your Tinnitus.
Please visit the American Tinnitus Association's website for more information www.ata.org or contact Jennifer Auer, Au.D., F-AAA, CCC-A at Audiology by the Sound PLLC.