Tinnitus is the perception of sound when no sound is present. The first time most people experience tinnitus, it is a slight ringing in their ears after being exposed to loud sounds such as music, fireworks, or firearms. For most people, tinnitus is a brief and occasional phenomenon, but for others it can be permanent and debilitating.
The causes of tinnitus are many, and different for every person. There is evidence that says that tinnitus can be caused by exposure to loud sound, hearing loss, stress, infection, tumors, medication, diet, aging, and more. With so many potential causes, the biggest take away is that tinnitus itself is a symptom, not a disease. Some people find that rectifying the cause of the tinnitus can relieve their tinnitus symptoms, but for others they must try other methods. Prior to starting treatment it is vital to discover the cause of the tinnitus to ensure effective treatment can be administered.
Evaluations for tinnitus are difficult for many professionals because tinnitus is subjective. This means that the clinician cannot hear it, and they have to depend on you to evaluate and classify the tinnitus. Some clinics rely on surveys and self-assessment questionnaires to first evaluate the tinnitus. The benefit of questionnaires is that they are based on research and have data to back up the results. One such questionnaire is the Tinnitus Functional Index which classifies the effect of the tinnitus on the patient’s life in different areas. By knowing how the tinnitus is bothering a person we start to get an idea of how to treat it. Other clinics rely on case history questions and discussions with the patient to get a sense of how the tinnitus presents and how it effects them. This method is extremely helpful as it allows the patient and clinician to discuss and come to an understanding together. There are also methods to attempt to measure the tinnitus with audiologic testing protocol where the patient listens to sounds and informs the clinician when they are close to replicating the sound of the tinnitus. When using this method we can sometimes easily see where the tinnitus is most impactful on the auditory system and utilize auditory stimulation to relieve the symptoms of the tinnitus.
At Priority Hearing & Tinnitus we use all 3 approaches to ensure we are fully evaluating the tinnitus and the individual. For those individuals with tinnitus caused by hearing loss, we find that about 60-70% of them find relief by using a hearing aid. For others a hearing aid is not enough and we must find other treatment options based on the cause of the tinnitus, effects on the patient, and their lifestyle. We strive to develop treatment plans that are effective and realistic for individuals. Together we can work to find a solution that is right for you. Even if other professionals have told you that there is no cure for tinnitus, there are treatment options that can be effective for you.
If you are struggling with tinnitus and are interested in an evaluation and treatment, reach out to our office to schedule an appointment.
The Consumer Handbook on Tinnitus, Richard S Tyler, PhD