Tinnitus is more commonly known as a “ringing in the ears”; however, the sound that is perceived in tinnitus may be a roaring, a humming, a buzzing, or a hissing. Regardless of the sound that is perceived, tinnitus is the sensation of sound that is not occurring in the environment.
Tinnitus is extremely common. According to the American Tinnitus Association, approximately 50 million people in the United States have chronic tinnitus, which is tinnitus that lasts for more than six months. Tinnitus can also be quite disabling. Many people with this condition experience depression, insomnia, and markedly decreased quality of life.
When evaluating a client with possible tinnitus, your audiologist will perform a detailed clinical history and physical examination to try to localize the source of the problem. In most cases, audiometric testing including a pure-tone audiogram, tympanometry, auditory reflex testing, determination of speech discrimination abilities, and otoacoustic emissions testing is required (These are the same tests performed during a hearing aid evaluation). These painless tests can determine if the source of the tinnitus is the middle ear, cochlea, or the brainstem.
There are several treatment options for tinnitus. The standard treatment, especially in individuals who have some degree of hearing loss, is a hearing aid. A hearing aid can accentuate or amplify sounds from the environment, making the tinnitus softer for less noticeable by comparison.
Other treatments for tinnitus include tinnitus retraining therapy or tinnitus masking therapy, biofeedback, and cognitive behavioral therapy. In retraining therapy, the client is trained to ignore the tinnitus and focus on true sounds. Masking therapy uses a device that resembles a hearing aid to provide the ear with sounds that cover or mask the tinnitus. In biofeedback and cognitive behavioral therapy, the goal is to develop ways to cope with and ignore the tinnitus, hopefully making it less prominent and more easily manageable.
If you think you may have tinnitus, you should not have to suffer. Contact Bergen Audiology for a tinnitus appointment today to discuss your treatment options.