Tinnitus

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Do you hear a ringing, roaring, clicking, or hissing sound in your ears? Do you hear this sound often or all the time? Does the sound bother you a lot? If you answer yes to these questions, you may have tinnitus (tin-NY-tus).

Tinnitus is a symptom associated with many forms of hearing loss. It can also be a symptom of other health problems. Roughly 25 million Americans have experienced tinnitus and in some cases the effects are so severe it interferes with their daily activities. If you have it you may even find it difficult to hear, work, or even sleep.

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WHAT CAUSES TINNITUS?

Tinnitus may be caused by:

Hearing loss: Most people who have tinnitus also have some kind of hearing loss.

Loud noise: Exposure to loud noise can cause permanent hearing loss and tinnitus. Continued exposure can make the tinnitus and hearing loss become worse.

Medicine: More than 200 medicines, including aspirin, can cause tinnitus. If you have tinnitus and you take medicine, ask your doctor or pharmacist whether your medicine could be the cause.

Other potential causes: Allergies, tumors, problems in the heart and blood vessels, jaws, and neck can cause tinnitus.

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WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I HAVE TINNITUS?

Make an appointment to see an Audiologist for an evaluation. A careful review of your health history along with audiometric testing will lead to the most likely causes and best treatment for it. You may be referred to an ear, nose and throat doctor for other examinations to ensure an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment recommendations.

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HOW WILL HEARING EXPERTS TREAT MY TINNITUS?

Although there is no cure for it, Audiologists, scientists and doctors have discovered several treatments that may give you some relief. Not every treatment works for everyone, so you may need to try several to find the ones that help.

Treatments can include:

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.

Sound Therapy Devices: Medical-grade personal listening systems or ear-level devices which incorporate sound treatments in a portable device. This is a method that uses an external sound to facilitate habituation to the perception of tinnitus. These programmable devices are customized around the user’s tinnitus.

Tinnitus Retraining Therapy: This method is a neurophysiologic approach to tinnitus. It uses a combination of low level, broad-band noise and counseling to achieve the habituation of tinnitus. This means that the patient is no longer aware of their tinnitus except when they focus their attention on it; and even then, the tinnitus is not annoying or bothersome. TRT treatment occurs over a period of about two years.

Maskers: Tinnitus maskers are small electronic devices that look like hearing aids and are tuned to generate sound that masks or covers up the tinnitus. Like hearing aids, they may provide relief from the tinnitus, but will not enhance hearing and may interfere with understanding speech.

Many types of devices, such as fans, radios and sound generators can be used as tinnitus maskers to help tinnitus sufferers to fall sleep or get back to sleep.

Medicine or drug therapy: As a tinnitus sufferer you may develop anxiety and other strong emotional responses to your tinnitus. Certain medicines may provide relief from these emotional reactions and provide some relief from the tinnitus. Other medicines and nutritional supplements can provide additional relief.

Counseling: If you have tinnitus you may experience anxiety, depression and other psychiatric problems. You may be referred to a psychiatrist our counselor as needed.

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WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP MYSELF?

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 for a while. It can also help to mask the sound. Other people like to listen to recorded nature sounds, like ocean waves, the wind, or even crickets.

Avoid anything that can make 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 ear plugs 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 your friends and family to face you when they talk so you can see their faces. 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.

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WHAT IS THE NEXT STEP?

Schedule an appointment with an Audiologist to evaluate and discuss your Tinnitus.