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Ringing in the Ears: Facts About Tinnitus
On this page:
- What causes tinnitus?
- What should I do if I have tinnitus?
- How will hearing experts treat my tinnitus?
- What can I do to help myself?
- Where can I find more information?
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 such as high anxiety. It can even occur with people who have normal hearing. Roughly 25 million Americans have experienced tinnitus. Some cases are so severe that it interferes with their daily activities. People with severe cases of tinnitus may find it difficult to hear, work, or even sleep.
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 get 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 involved.
Other potential causes. Allergies, tumors, problems in the heart and blood vessels, jaws, and neck can cause tinnitus.
The first step is to see our otoneurologist for an evaluation. A careful history and audiometric testing will lead to the most likely causes and best treatment for your tinnitus. You may be asked to have imaging testing completed, such as a MRI or CT Scan to complete the diagnosis.
Although there is no cure for tinnitus, 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. One theory regarding the use of hearing aids as a tinnitus treatment is that the brain “misses” the sounds that your hearing loss doesn’t allow you to hear naturally in your environment, so the brain generates that sound on its own. You hear it as tinnitus. Sometimes, by wearing hearing aids those “missed” sounds are now heard so the brain stops creating the tinnitus.
Today, hearing aid manufacturers have realized the benefits of tinnitus relief through the use of hearing aids and have created hearing aids specific to the tinnitus sufferer. These hearing aids have special listening programs to help alleviate the stress of tinnitus and to rehabilitate the brain. Ask our audiologists about your options for hearing aids as a tinnitus treatment plan.
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 fall sleep or get back to sleep.
Medicine or drug therapy. Some tinnitus sufferers develop anxiety and other strong emotional responses to their tinnitus. Certain medicines may provide relief from these emotional reactions and provide some relief from the tinnitus. Other medicines and nutritional supplements have provided relief in some patients.
Neuromonics Tinnitus Therapy. This treatment uses a combination of testing, counseling and specialized masking to help you to effectively manage and gradually reduce your response to the tinnitus. This treatment can take six months or more to complete.
Sound Cure - Serenade Tinnitus Therapy
Serenade is a complete, FDA cleared sound therapy solution based on acoustic research conducted by leading university researchers. It has recently been commissioned by The Veterans Affairs Hospital (VA) to use with our veterans that suffer from tinnitus. Simple to use and customized to each patient, Serenade’s digital signal processing system is based on the relationship between specific tonal algorithms and their effects.
The Serenade tinnitus treatment system consists of a handheld device, earphones, and proprietary, customized treatment sounds that research has suggested may address the underlying neurological cause of tinnitus. These key elements are combined with patient education and aftercare.
- Unlike other approaches, this treatment is customized to your specific tinnitus.
- Includes 4 different sound tracks including new treatment sounds known as S-Tones, developed by leading hearing experts.
- It does not consist of a step by step program that takes months to complete. Relief can occur within days or weeks.
- Device is small, portable, and easy to use, day or night.
- Includes Sleep Assist – a 60 minute, auto-off timer to help patient fall asleep.
- Independent left and right volume controls offer maximum flexibility and comfort.
Counseling. People with tinnitus may experience anxiety, depression and other psychiatric problems. You may be referred to a psychiatrist or counselor as needed.
Relaxing. Learning how to relax is very helpful if the noise in your ears frustrates you. Stress makes tinnitus seem worse. By relaxing, you have a chance to rest and better deal with the sound.
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.
Some other things that have been found to aggravate tinnitus include:
- Artificial Sweeteners
- Lack of Sleep
By trying to reduce one or more of these, you may find your tinnitus to be more manageable.
Schedule an appointment with an Audiologist to evaluate and discuss your Tinnitus.