Tinnitus (literally “ringing” in Latin) is characterized by ringing, buzzing or roaring noises that originate in the ear or the head. Some people have tinnitus but it does not bother them, while others can become very upset by its presence. They need strategies and treatments to manage it.
Though this condition is usually not dangerous, it can be a symptom of another health problem. Tinnitus has been known to cause stressful side effects including fatigue, sleep problems, difficulty concentrating, memory problems, depression, anxiety and irritability. It requires an evaluation and a treatment plan.
What Treatments are Available?
Depending on the cause of your tinnitus and other factors, several treatments are available, including medical options and audiologic options. Counseling the patient about the mechanism of tinnitus and the strategies to manage it are as important as any treatment alone.
If a hearing loss is present and no other underlying conditions exist as determined by your medical examination, hearing aids often bring great relief to tinnitus suffers. It is well known that by improving the person’s ability to hear the missing sounds, we give the brain something else to listen to. Instead of the brain sending signals down to the ear to detect sound and causing noise, the brain can relax and use the sound it is getting through the hearing aids. In addition to letting the brain stop searching for sound, with hearing aids, we hear speech and environmental sounds and get another place to focus our attention.
If improving the tinnitus with hearing aids does not provide enough relief, a common treatment is acoustic therapy or sound therapy. Sound therapy makes use of sounds to help the brain re-focus and diminish the emotional impact of the tinnitus. Many hearing aids have a sound therapy program built in that may be turned on for additional tinnitus management.
If there is no hearing loss, and medical issues have been ruled out by a physician, a sound therapy aid may be fit on the person with tinnitus. This device keeps a low level signal playing in the ears, and over time, it can cause the brain to ignore the tinnitus and relax the wearer. Again, counseling about the tinnitus and treatment options are extremely valuable in tinnitus management.
In our office, we will provide these tinnitus management devices for people with hearing loss and those without hearing loss.