Senior man hearing loss , Hard of hearing

All About Tinnitus Management

In Hearing Loss by Jennifer Douberly, Au.D.

What is Tinnitus

Tinnitus often wreaks havoc on the lives of those unfortunate to suffer from it and does so with an intensity that others may find difficult to comprehend. But when we really grasp what exactly tinnitus is, its severity is simple to understand. 

Tinnitus is the continual impression of a sound that is not really there. There is no source in the environment for this sound, it is happening in one’s own ears. Usually people describe it as “ringing in the ears” but it expands to include sounds that are described as whooshing, whistling, chirping, buzzing, roaring, and hissing. 

Though it may be hard to believe, almost one out of every six people in America lives with this—50 million people. And the vast majority of all of these people have the same root cause, no matter which of the wide array of circumstances that led to it, an injury to their auditory system.  

How is Tinnitus Diagnosed?

The experience of symptoms is enough on its own for doctors to diagnose it. No further examination is necessary. But because there are so many potential causes for this injury, the doctor will need to investigate the many possible underlying conditions that could have caused the tinnitus to determine the appropriate treatment. 

The doctor will of course first closely inspect your full medical history for any clues. Then they will do a broad examination that will include audiological tests, movement tests, MRI and CT scans, and bloodwork. All these are necessary for the doctors to identify the specific cause or causes for your specific case and prescribe the appropriate treatments. 

For example, you may hear pulsing, rushing, or humming in your ears or you may hear persistent clicking. All of these sounds would fall under the umbrella of tinnitus, but they may be the result of muscle strains in your neck or your ears or high blood pressure. And clicking is much different than humming, but is pulsing really that different than rushing? Two different people with similar symptoms may likely choose different words to describe it. None of it is solved until the underlying condition is identified. 

Tools for Treatment 

A true cure for tinnitus unfortunately does not exist yet. Researchers have made great advances in the recent past and continue to do so, but for now, actually stopping the perceived signal before it reaches the brain is not possible yet. So for now, treatment can only mean treating the underlying cause of the perceived signal and mitigating the burden and anxiousness that these symptoms so often produce. 

There are many helpful tools to do this. Trained specialists will determine the precise correct combination that will work for each specific person. Living with tinnitus creates psychological, emotional, and mental stress so it is imperative to follow every nuanced element of your specialist’s course of remedy. Failing to do so could lead to compounded effects such as social isolation, depression, and even cognitive deterioration.   

Underlying conditions that cause tinnitus could be something as innocent as impacted earwax or as potentially serious as blood vessel problems that are themselves the symptoms of more serious conditions. Of course whatever your specialist determines to be the underlying cause will be the initial focus of the treatment.  

Hearing aids will be a great help to anyone who endures tinnitus due to noise-induced or age-related hearing loss. The irritation of the relentless noise can be quelled with the strategic use of white noise machines, fans, vents, or even the murmur of talk radio. Sound-masking devices can emit frequencies that precisely offset the frequencies of the problematic ringing. 

Counseling and therapy can help provide coping skills. The American Tinnitus Association (ATA) is the most comprehensive non-profit resource in the country for information about tinnitus. It would be foolish to not take advantage of the wide range of resources that they offer. And make an appointment with a specialist today to get to the bottom of your own specific situation. You will feel the immediate relief of reconnecting with your own ultimate potential as soon as you take the very first steps. There is no reason whatsoever to live with tinnitus without capitalizing on every possible solution to quiet its stress.