What is tinnitus, and how can it be treated?

Tinnitus is a very common medical condition, experienced by roughly 25 million Americans. It's a buzzing, hissing, clicking, or roaring sound that can be intermittent or constant. Moderate tinnitus may not be very noticeable, while some people have been known to seek emergency psychiatric help because the roaring is so loud that sleeping and basic conversations become impossible.

What Causes Tinnitus?

There is no one clear cause. It may be an identifiable source, or it can be a combination of factors. The most common causes of tinnitus are:

  • Hearing Loss – when the brain is no longer exposed to a sound frequency (hearing loss), it can compensate by adding additional sounds that are not physically there.
  • Medical Conditions – Things such as head trauma, immune disorders, and Temporomandibular Joint Disorder have been associated with Tinnitus as a symptom.
  • Medication – There are a lot of drugs that have ototoxic effects. Certain cancer medicines, antibiotics, and diuretics have been known to cause tinnitus.

Types of Tinnitus Treatment

A careful review of your health history along with audiometric testing will lead to the most likely causes and best treatment for your tinnitus, including:

  • Hearing Aids – Hearing Aids may create dual benefits, by enhancing hearing and/or “masking” the tinnitus.  Over 60% of hearing aid users report partial or complete relief from their tinnitus when wearing their devices.
  • Drug Therapy – Certain medicines may provide some relief from tinnitus. Nutritional supplements may also provide additional relief.
  • Sound Therapy -  Many hearing instruments now incorporate some form of sound therapy for tinnitus sufferers.  Different types of noises or chime-like sounds can be used with or without amplification as a tinnitus treatment.  Sound therapy will most often be accompanied by education, counseling, and stress reduction.  It may also include professionals from other disciplines (i.e., psychology, dentistry, neurology, etc).  This new approach is proving to be very successful and is being used more frequently by the hearing professionals in our office.

Seek HelpIf you think you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, it's important to schedule an appointment with an audiologist to have your tinnitus evaluated. Even mild tinnitus can be a symptom of a more serious medical problem. It's a painless examination, and it does not take very long.

If you do schedule an appointment with us, please fill out this THI (Tinnitus Handicap Inventory) form and bring it to your appointment. It will help the audiologist assess the impact your tinnitus may have on everyday life.