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Tinnitus

Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

It is important to keep in mind that tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease. As such, the optimal treatment strategy should be directed toward eliminating the disease of causation, rather than simply alleviating the symptom.

Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) is the perception of a sound that has no external source. Some of the more common sounds reported are ringing, humming, buzzing, or cricket-like. It can be constant or intermittent, and is heard in one ear, both ears, or in the head. Tinnitus can originate in the middle ear (behind the eardrum) or in the inner ear (cochlea), which can also be referred to as sensorineural hearing loss. Not to worry, we specialize in tinnitus diagnosis and treatment, and we’re here to help!

It is important to keep in mind that tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease. As such, the optimal treatment strategy should be directed toward eliminating the disease, rather than simply alleviating the symptom. Also, because it may be symptomatic of a more serious disorder, it is important to try to find the medical cause before deciding on treatment.

Determining if you have tinnitus or not is also an important step prior to recommendation of treatment plans or intervention. Longmont Hearing and Tinnitus Center specializes in tinnitus diagnosis and treatment. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!

Preventing and Minimizing Tinnitus

While there is no known cure for most forms of tinnitus, there are several management options to prevent and minimize it. Most sufferers can find varying degrees of relief from one or a combination of the following suggestions:

At Longmont Hearing and Tinnitus Center, we’re here to do what we can to offer you relief.

Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (Audiology Habituation)

We provide directive counseling, which includes intensive, individualized education on the causes and effects of tinnitus on the ear and the brain, as well as a method of coping. Low-level sound generators produce broadband noise via hearing aid type devices at a soft enough level so that the brain perceives both the noise and the tinnitus. Eventually, the brain may relearn a pattern that will de-emphasize the importance of tinnitus. These devices also may be helpful in desensitizing patients who are overly sensitive to sound.

Acoustic Therapy

The use of an externally produced sound to either cover up or in some way inhibit or alter production of tinnitus can offer relief for some. There are six main methods of acoustic stimulation:

  • A sound generator, sometimes called tinnitus masker, is an ear-level electronic device housed in a hearing aid case that produces a white noise.
  • A tinnitus instrument is a combination hearing aid and sound generator.
  • Hearing aids help to amplify speech as well as environmental noise. Hearing aids stimulate areas of the ear and brain that otherwise may not be receiving adequate stimulation because of hearing loss.
  • A tabletop or portable sound generator, such as a fan, radio, or television, can be purchased at certain electronic suppliers.
  • Home masking, using such items as electric fans, radios or television.
  • Music therapy (see below).

Unfortunately, some tinnitus sufferers find that masking noise may merely be a substitute of one annoying sound for another. It is often better to try to relegate the annoyance of tinnitus to the background of one’s consciousness through habituation or retraining methods.

Music Therapy

Many patients find that music, particularly classical pieces that don’t contain wide variations in loudness (amplitude) can be soothing. The music both calms the limbic system (the emotional processor in the brain that is commonly negatively linked to a patient’s reaction to tinnitus) and stimulates the auditory cortex. If hearing loss is present, it may be necessary to alter the spectrum of the music so that the cortical neurons receive appropriate stimulation.

Amplification

The use of hearing aids, or a combination of hearing aids and maskers, are often effective ways to minimize tinnitus. While it is not clear whether hearing aids help by amplifying background sounds that can mask out tinnitus or by actually altering the production of it, most hearing aid wearers report at least some reduction in their tinnitus. This may be due to the reduction in contrast between tinnitus and silence, or because of the new stimulation provided to the brain.

Medications

There is no medication or herbal supplement medically proven to alleviate tinnitus symptoms. Some antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are helpful for certain patients; however, more research is needed in this area. We recommend scheduling an appointment with Longmont Hearing and Tinnitus Center. We can evaluate your tinnitus and make recommendations for possible steps forward to hearing health. Schedule an appointment today!

Tinnitus FAQs

To keep tinnitus from getting worse, take extra precautions to protect your hearing. If you know that you are going to be exposed to loud sounds (i.e you work with loud and heavy machinery or are going to spend some time hunting or at a shooting range), you need to wear proper hearing protection to avoid triggering or worsening tinnitus symptoms.
On average, a tinnitus attack or episode may last from 16 to 48 hours. In some cases, symptoms can last for as long as two weeks. In cases with prolonged tinnitus symptoms, medical attention should be sought. Exposure to extremely loud noises may also trigger a tinnitus flare up, so make sure to always wear hearing protection as needed.

Some over-the-counter drugs and supplements are misleadingly marketed as “tinnitus remedies” or “miracle cures.” Unfortunately, there is still no reliable scientific or medical evidence that these products — or the ingredients within them — have any impact on tinnitus. When it comes to tinnitus treatment and management, your best and safest bet would be consulting with an audiologist or a physician. A series of tests will be performed to rule out any underlying conditions. Once these are ruled out, it is easier to come up with an effective tinnitus treatment management plan.

Tinnitus Diagnosis and Management - Longmont, Colorado

Tinnitus can range from annoying to downright debilitating. Whether you are able to tolerate tinnitus symptoms or not, getting the right diagnosis and ruling out any serious medical condition is critical to getting relief. If you are concerned about your tolerance to noise, let us help! Schedule an appointment with our Doctors of Audiology today. We’re here to help.