What is Tinnitus?
Though the common misconception about tinnitus is that it’s a disease, tinnitus is actually a medical condition characterized by persistent ringing in one or both ears that can only be heard by the affected individual.
Many who suffer from tinnitus describe the annoying sound as ringing in the ear, but a whistling, hissing, buzzing, or pulsing sound is also possible. For some, these sounds come and go. But most are not that lucky, and will experience symptoms 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
These phantom sounds may cause only a slight annoyance, or they may severely disrupt everyday life. The American Tinnitus Association estimates more than 50 million Americans suffer from at least occasional bouts of tinnitus. Even people with normal hearing may hear tinnitus at some point in their lives.
What Causes Tinnitus?
There are a number of causes, with the most common being exposure to loud noise for a prolonged period of time. In this case, your hearing may be temporarily or permanently damaged, depending upon the severity of the sound.
Tinnitus signifies damage to the inner ear cells or hearing nerve. It may be aggravated by many factors, including: alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, medications (such as aspirin), loud noise or music, diet (i.e. salt), and stress.
We can’t always tell whether your temporary damage will become permanent, but tinnitus is usually representative of an inner-ear problem. Tinnitus research is ongoing, and the mechanisms that cause tinnitus in the brain and inner ear are being more closely studied.
Tinnitus should be thought of as a symptom, not a disease. Along with a damaged hearing system, tinnitus may be a symptom of a medical complication. Talk with your doctor if you have persistent tinnitus, if it is only in one ear, or if your tinnitus is accompanied by dizziness and/or balance issues.
In rare cases, tinnitus may be caused by a blood vessel disorder, resulting in pulsatile tinnitus. This type of tinnitus may be caused by a head or neck tumor, a buildup of cholesterol in the circulatory system, high blood pressure, turbulent blood flow, or malformation of the capillaries surrounding the ear. The result is a tinnitus that sends out pulsing signals in conjunction with the flow of your heartbeat.
Is There a Cure?
In some instances where the origin of tinnitus is known (i.e. dietary issues, medication side effect, etc.), proper management can help reduce or even eliminate the tinnitus.
For most people, there is no known cure, but there are management or treatment options available to provide you with relief. There are some homeopathic remedies claiming to provide relief or eliminate tinnitus, but these claims have not been proven. Acupuncture has helped some individuals with tinnitus, possibly through its stress-reducing effects. Relaxation methods, such as meditation, can also help alleviate the constant ringing in your ears.
What Are the Treatment Options for Tinnitus?
There are many treatment options available and each individual with tinnitus is unique. What works for one person, may or may not work for you. Diagnostic testing and an evaluation by an otologist will rule out possible medical factors that could be causing or contributing to your tinnitus. Because your tinnitus symptoms are personal and unique in nature, an in-depth evaluation will help us create a specialized treatment plan for you.
Although there isn’t a single cure for tinnitus, our audiologists have the knowledge and experience to provide you with treatment methods that can help lessen the impact that tinnitus has on your life. In many cases, the distressing combination of tinnitus and hearing loss can be relieved with AGX Hearing technology.
The No. 1 treatment for tinnitus for those who also experience hearing loss is the use of a personal hearing system, which can improve your hearing and often reduce or eliminate your perception of tinnitus. There are a number of treatment options, including:
AGX® Hearing Technology:
The top treatment for those who experience hearing loss, which can both improve overall hearing ability and eliminate the perception of ringing. An ear-level device with a built-in sound generator is also available for patients with or without hearing loss. This device works as a hearing aid and tinnitus sound generator, or solely as a sound generator.
Also known as sound therapy, this involves introducing noise or music to change your focus from the tinnitus to something else. An electronic device called a masker may be worn to distract from the ringing sensation. Maskers fit in the ear similarly to hearing aids and produce low-level sounds. In addition, bedside sound generators and other devices can also help remove the perception of ringing. Many people use a fan or relaxing music to help them fall asleep at night.
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy:
A therapeutic process in which we specialize, and has given relief to many of our patients. Our process is a combination of sound therapy and counseling, which alters the brain’s neural signals and weakens the perception of tinnitus, allowing you to live your daily life far more peacefully.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:
A type of counseling that helps to change the body’s emotional reaction to tinnitus by altering negative thought patterns and helping to relieve stress.
What Can I Do to Help Reduce the Tinnitus?
Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for tinnitus. However, there may be some lifestyle changes you can make to help manage your tinnitus:
- Reduce sodium, caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine intake
- Keep busy but avoid stressful situations
- Avoid complete silence. Sleep with a fan or low-level TV or radio on in the background
- Wear hearing protection when around loud music or machinery
Remain positive rather than dwell on the tinnitus. You are not alone!
I have suffered with tinnitus for the last 3 years. Dr. Robin Wielins at Island Audiology tested my hearing and fitted me with a Starkey Multiflex Tinnitus technology hearing aid. Relief came instantly, hallelujah!
I have had follow-up appointments for tuning (included). It was also nice to know the device came with a return policy if it did not work for me. Needless to say I’m keeping it. I strongly recommend the Doctors at Island audiology who can help you. Dr. Robin, thank you for your skills. You certainly have made my life better.”
— Ray S., Honolulu, HI
Soothe the Ringing
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