Tinnitus is the perception of sound in the ear(s) when no sound is physically present or audible to the examiner. The condition affects millions of Americans each year. The noise can be described as a ringing, buzzing, whooshing, or crackling sound and can take on different qualities to each patient. Sometimes, there is no identifiable underlying cause — called Benign Essential Tinnitus – but in most situations, an underlying disorder is identified after a thorough medical and audiological exam.
The exact cause and cure is not available today. We know most patients complaining of ear ringing have an underlying hearing loss. There are a variety of conditions that can worsen symptoms including: acute or chronic noise exposure; stress; psychiatric disorders; fatigue; certain medications; and diets high in salt, caffeine, and nicotine.
Some types of tinnitus respond to surgical intervention, while others may require medical evaluation and treatment. Although there are many advertised over-the-counter medications (allopathic and osteopathic) available, most of them are placebos. We recommend a thorough audiological evaluation. Our doctors specialize in tinnitus treatments and can discuss possible causes, treatment options and the psychological impact of the disorder.
Tinnitus is an unwanted noise often described as ringing in the ears. It can be a small irritant or so bothersome as to interfere with work and sleep. Tinnitus sufferers typically experience problems with focus and concentration. Fortunately, a variety of effective tinnitus treatments are available and include hearing aids, masking devices, medicine, neuromonics, counseling, and relaxing techniques.
- Hearing aids: Most people with tinnitus have some degree of hearing loss. Hearing aids create a dual benefit of enhancing hearing and masking or covering up the tinnitus. The majority of patients with tinnitus receive partial or complete relief from their tinnitus with the use of hearing aids.
- Masking devices: Tinnitus maskers are small electronic devices that generate sounds that mask or cover up the tinnitus. Masking devices may provide relief from the tinnitus, but will not enhance hearing and may interfere with understanding speech.
- Medicine or drug therapy: Some tinnitus sufferers develop anxiety and other strong emotional responses to their tinnitus symptoms. Certain medicines have provided some patients relief from these emotional reactions.
- Neuromonics Tinnitus Therapy: This treatment uses a combination of testing, counseling and specialized masking to help you effectively manage and gradually reduce your response to the tinnitus. This treatment can take six months or more to complete but has a high rate of success.
- Counseling: People with tinnitus may experience anxiety, depression and other psychiatric problems. Counseling provides some patients relief from tinnitus symptoms.
- Relaxation therapy: Learning how to relax is very helpful if the noise in your ears frustrates you. Stress exacerbates tinnitus. Relaxation can allow you to cope with tinnitus irritants better.
How can I manage my tinnitus?
- Think about things that will help you cope. Many people find listening to music very helpful. Focusing on music might help you forget about your tinnitus. It can also help mask the sound. There some free phone or tablet applications that allow you to listen to a variety of nature sounds like the wind, waves, or crickets.
- Avoid anything that makes your tinnitus worse, such as smoking, alcohol, and loud noise. If you are a construction worker, an airport worker, or a hunter, or if you are regularly exposed to loud noise at home or at work, wear earplugs or special earmuffs to protect your hearing and keep your tinnitus from getting worse.
- If it is hard for you to hear over your tinnitus, ask speakers to face you when they talk so you can see their face. Seeing their expressions may help you understand them better. Ask people to speak louder, but not shout. Also, tell them they do not have to talk slowly, just more clearly.
If the tips above do not provide enough relief from your tinnitus symptoms, schedule an appointment for a complete tinnitus evaluation. Tinnitus treatment is highly individualized. We look forward to working with you to discover which treatment method will be most effective for your tinnitus.