Tinnitus is a common auditory condition where the individual perceives sounds like ringing, buzzing, or hissing when none exists externally. This phantom perception of noise can range from mildly annoying to severely distressing, potentially impacting the overall quality of life. In the United States alone, tinnitus affects an estimated 25% of the population, roughly over 50 million people1.
While often associated with hearing loss, tinnitus could also be indicative of other issues in the auditory nerve or the brain's sound-processing areas. It’s also noted that nearly 90% of individuals with tinnitus also have some degree of hearing loss.
Tinnitus: Causes and Contributions
The exact causes of tinnitus remain largely unknown. However, it is commonly believed that the absence of sound due to hearing loss triggers the brain to create its phantom noise to replace it. Other contributing factors could be damage to the auditory nerve, reactions to certain medications, overexposure to loud noises, or unrelated medical conditions.
Types of Tinnitus
There are two main types of tinnitus:
- Subjective Tinnitus: This is the most common type, where only the individual can hear the sound. It can be caused by auditory and neurological reactions to hearing loss, or by disorders affecting the auditory nerves or the auditory pathways in the brain.
- Objective Tinnitus: This is a rare type where the sound can be heard by the individual and the doctor during an examination. It is typically caused by vascular conditions, muscle contractions, or inner ear bone conditions.
Evaluating Tinnitus: The First Step
At Victory Hearing and Balance, we believe that the first step in addressing tinnitus should be a comprehensive hearing evaluation. This includes a tinnitus pitch and intensity match, and tinnitus consultation to measure the intensity and frequency of the perceived noise. Understanding your overall hearing ability and pinpointing the cause of your tinnitus allows us to strategize the most effective treatment plan.
Tinnitus Treatement Options
While there is currently no clinically proven cure for tinnitus, numerous tools and therapies can help manage the condition effectively. These strategies aim to reduce the perceived burden of tinnitus, allowing individuals to lead comfortable, unencumbered, and content lives.
Sound therapy involves the use of external noise to alter a patient's perception of, or reaction to, tinnitus. This includes sound-generating devices and hearing aids. These devices can play white noise, pink noise, nature sounds, music, or other ambient sounds. Most people prefer a level of external sound that is just slightly louder than their tinnitus, but preferences vary.
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT)
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy involves retraining the auditory system to accept the abnormal sounds of tinnitus as natural rather than disruptive. It includes a combination of low-level, steady background sounds played through a device combined with ongoing counseling.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a type of therapy that helps people learn to ignore or change their reactions to tinnitus. The goal is to change the way a person thinks about tinnitus so that it becomes less noticeable.
Hearing aids can be helpful for many people with tinnitus. They are especially beneficial for those who have hearing problems as well as tinnitus. Hearing aids can amplify ambient sounds, help fill in the gaps left by hearing loss, and distract from the tinnitus by bringing more environmental sounds into the auditory system.
Wellness and Lifestyle Changes
Improving one's general wellness can also help reduce the severity of tinnitus. This includes healthy eating, regular physical activity, adequate sleep, and stress management. Some people also find relief in complementary therapies like acupuncture, meditation, or massage.
The Tinnitus Journey
While an absolute cure for tinnitus is yet to be discovered, the available treatments can significantly reduce the perceived intensity and impact of the condition. At Victory Hearing and Balance, we believe in a personalized approach to tinnitus management. We understand that no two cases are alike, hence, the most effective treatment option often depends on an array of factors unique to each individual.
Living with tinnitus can be challenging. Remember, while tinnitus may currently be a part of your life, it doesn't have to define it. With the right help and support, you can learn to manage your symptoms effectively, leading to a better, more fulfilling life. The team at Victory Hearing and Balance, led by Dr. Jill Davis, is committed to helping you find the most suitable treatment to reduce the negative impact that tinnitus may be having on your life. Our approach is professional, compassionate, and authoritative. We offer clear and detailed information, backed by scientific evidence, to help you navigate your journey with tinnitus.
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