Tinnitus Evaluation And Management
Tinnitus is the term used to describe the condition of perceiving a sound (often times described as a "ringing," "buzzing," or "whooshing" noise) in the absence of an external sound source. This is typically only experienced by the person with tinnitus and has a variety of different causes.
What causes tinnitus?
Tinnitus can be caused by many things, and is usually a symptom of an underlying condition. The treatment for your particular tinnitus will depend on the condition that is causing it, the severity, any accompanying issues such as hearing loss, and the impact the tinnitus has on daily activities.
Common causes of tinnitus include:
- Hearing loss (tinnitus is mostly commonly associated with a hearing loss)
- Exposure to loud noises
- Earwax buildup or blockages
- Abnormal bone growth in the ear
- Meniere's disease
- Head or neck injuries
- Benign tumor of the cranial nerve
- Vascular disorders
- Stress or depression
In order to find out the root cause of your tinnitus, your audiologist will conduct a complete medical history and refer you to a specialist if indicated.
What treatments are available?
Depending on the cause of your tinnitus and other factors, several treatments are available to relieve your tinnitus symptoms, from hearing aids with tinnitus-masking features to sound therapy.
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.
Hearing aids are a popular treatment option for tinnitus - even if hearing loss isn’t present. Hearing aids can be equipped with a tinnitus-masking feature to help individuals block out the tinnitus and provide much-needed relief. These can be used in collaboration of hearing loss treatment as well.
Often time, just understanding the underlying mechanism of tinnitus provides tremendous relief. Counseling involves understanding the anatomy and physiology of the hearing system, discussing the possible reasons for tinnitus and its perception, and providing options for tinnitus management (whether it be sound therapy or stress reduction techniques).
Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT)
Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT), also known as habituation therapy, is a very specifically practiced method using sound therapy and educational counseling. This therapy attempts to retrain your brain into perceiving the tinnitus in a different way. Typical behavioral therapy may also be included to help the individual cope with any emotional difficulties they’re experiencing, including depression, stress or anger.
After treatment has taken place, further maintenance is important. This may include management of associated health problems or ongoing therapies to support health and manage tinnitus.