Definition of Tinnitus
Tinnitus is defined as the perception of sound in one or both ears despite the absence of any actual external sound. It is usually described as a ringing in the ear, but some people report a hissing, roaring, whooshing, buzzing, or whistling noise instead.
Causes of Tinnitus
Tinnitus is a symptom rather than a disease and, as such, is the result of an underlying condition. There are many possible causes, including noise exposure, trauma to the head or neck, natural aging, earwax buildup, cardiovascular disease, ototoxic medications and a variety of medical disorders.
What Treatments are Available for Tinnitus?
There is no universal cure for tinnitus, but there are treatments that make it less of a distraction. Because tinnitus is a side effect of an underlying condition, identifying the problem may lead to a medical or surgical solution. The cure rates for pulsatile tinnitus are quite high once the problem has been identified. Unfortunately, in many cases the exact cause of tinnitus can’t be identified, or treatment is not possible. However, symptoms can often be managed successfully through a number of different strategies.
- Acoustic therapy. Sounds are used to cover up, or mask, the tinnitus. This distracts your brain and helps you “tune out” the ringing in your ears. Electronic devices that produce white noise, air conditioners, fans, soft music, etc. can all be employed.
- Tinnitus retraining therapy. Similar in concept to acoustic therapy, tinnitus retraining therapy utilizes a portable sound generator that produces soft patterned tones to help desensitize the brain to the sounds of tinnitus.
- Steroid Injections. Meniere’s disease (also known as endolymphatic hydrops) has a triad of symptoms (hearing loss, tinnitus, vertigo) that fluctuate due to increased fluid pressures in the ear organs. Fluctuation of hearing and resulting tinnitus can be treated with a series of injections of Dexamethasone (a potent steroid) with an 85 percent chance of reduction in tinnitus.
- Surgery. If you have an acoustic neuroma and suffer from tinnitus, the tinnitus may be resolved through a surgical removal of the acoustic neuroma. In a 1981 research study of more than 400 patients, 45 percent improved their tinnitus with the surgical removal of the acoustic neuroma.
- Hearing aids. Hearing loss causes maladaptive neuroplastic changes in the brain. Hearing aids are used to stimulate the auditory pathways received by the brain. Background sounds can mask tinnitus. Hearing aids can also help the patient better distinguish one sound from another, improving communication and helping with focus and concentration difficulties. Many devices also come packaged with noise generators to replace ambient sounds if amplification alone does not reduce tinnitus.
- Counseling. Counseling, sleep and cognitive behavioral or relaxation methods can be practical in helping you manage your tinnitus symptoms by reducing the stress, anxiety and sleeplessness that are often associated with tinnitus. Hearing Aid & Tinnitus Center providers teach methods to help you manage your tinnitus symptoms.
Do you experience a ringing in your ears? If so, you are not alone. Tinnitus affects an estimated 50 million Americans—about 20 percent of the population. It can range from a mild annoyance to a full-fledged problem that severely impacts your quality of life.
Call Hearing Aid & Tinnitus Center today at 409-981-1700 to schedule an appointment for a Tinnitus Assessment