One of the most commonly searched terms on the Internet related to hearing is tinnitus. Clearly, many people are bothered by what they perceive as ringing in their ears, crickets chirping, or a constant white noise. What most people don’t understand is what tinnitus is, and what they can do to reduce its bothersome symptoms.
Roughly 50 Million Americans Suffer from Tinnitus
According to the American Tinnitus Association (ATA), tinnitus affects approximately 50 million Americans to some degree. Each individual’s experience with tinnitus can be different, and is an important clue that you need to pay attention to your hearing. In fact, according to research published in the American Journal of Medicine, 90 percent of individuals with tinnitus also have hearing loss.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Many times, the tinnitus and hearing loss are caused by damage to the nerve cells within the inner ear. This damage can occur from a number of sources, including exposure to excessively loud sounds, health conditions like diabetes, and medications that damage the ear. Tinnitus also can be caused by impacted ear wax. In very rare cases, underlying medical conditions may cause tinnitus.
There Is No Cure for Tinnitus, but There Are Effective Treatments
Many people are told that there’s nothing that can be done to help their tinnitus, prompting them to pursue “home remedies” or “cures” advertised on the Internet or TV that aren’t proven to be safe or helpful. Our best advice? If your ears are ringing, it’s a sign that you should have your hearing evaluated, and though there is no known cure for tinnitus at this time, we do have many very effective treatments that can help reduce or minimize the tinnitus.
Getting enough sleep, reducing stress, exercise (like yoga or Pilates), biofeedback, and living a healthy lifestyle can all be helpful in reducing tinnitus symptoms.
In some cases, a hearing aid may be the most effective treatment, improving the patient’s hearing, and helping the tinnitus. In a 2007 survey of hearing health professionals, respondents self-reported that roughly 60 percent of their tinnitus patients experienced at least some relief when wearing hearing aids; roughly 22 percent patients found significant relief. There are a number of great hearing aid options. Some even have built-in tinnitus maskers that can be very successful in managing the condition.
Environmental Sound Generators
For some individuals, additional environmental sounds help mask tinnitus. Some of these options can include white noise machines, low-level background music, and tabletop fountains. Many people find the background noise, whatever the source, distracts them from the tinnitus, and is soothing.
Sound Therapy Options
For the most complex tinnitus cases, more sophisticated management may be necessary. Associated Audiologists is the exclusive provider of two of the newest FDA-approved tools for tinnitus management.
- Desyncra is a targeted, neuroscience-based therapy designed to desynchronize pathological neuronal activity in tinnitus neuronal networks. This noninvasive therapy is tailored to the patient’s unique tinnitus profile. The therapeutic stimulus is delivered over a 36-week treatment period, using proprietary earphones and software on an Apple platform. The stimulus is non-disruptive, so it is convenient to use while engaging in normal activities of daily living. Typically, patients notice a reduction in tinnitus loudness and annoyance within a few weeks of starting therapy, with benefits lasting beyond the therapy period.
- The Levo System from Otoharmonics is a personalized, neuroscience-based sound therapy that is designed for use during sleep, when the brain is especially responsive to habituation. The patient’s unique tinnitus sound print is identified and delivered over the treatment period, using custom-fit earbuds and proprietary software on an Apple platform. Used nightly for 90 days and as needed thereafter, patients gradually habituate to their tinnitus.
Associated Audiologists also offers the Neuromonics Tinnitus Treatment, which uses modified music to reduce tinnitus awareness and disturbance, and facilitate habituation.
We Offer Treatments for Other Hearing Disorders
Our tinnitus treatment specialist, Susan Smittkamp, Au.D., Ph.D., FAAA, also treats patients with hyperacusis, a disorder of loudness perception, and misophonia, the dislike of specific sounds. Both of these conditions may be caused by a dysfunction of the central auditory system in the brain.