Do you experience a ringing in your ears? If so, you are not alone. Tinnitus affects an estimated 50 million Americans—about 20 percent of the population. It can range from a mild annoyance to a full-fledged problem that severely impacts your quality of life.
There is no universal cure for tinnitus, but there are treatments that make it less of a distraction. Because tinnitus is a side effect of an underlying condition, identifying the problem may lead to a medical or surgical solution.
Unfortunately, in many cases the exact cause of tinnitus can’t be identified. It is usually a benign, idiopathic condition. However, symptoms can often be managed successfully through a number of different strategies.
Sounds are used to cover up, or mask, the tinnitus. This distracts your brain and helps you “tune out” the ringing in your ears. Electronic devices that produce white noise such as air conditioners, fans, soft music, etc., can all be employed. Audio files, sleep noise generators, tinnitus specific earbuds can all be used.
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy
Similar in concept to acoustic therapy, tinnitus retraining therapy utilizes a portable sound generator that produces soft patterned tones to help desensitize the brain to the sounds of tinnitus.
Meniere’s disease (also known as endolympatic hydrops) has a triad of symptoms (hearing loss, tinnitus, vertigo) that fluctuate due to increased fluid pressures in the ear organs. The resulting hearing loss and tinnitus can be treated with a series of injections of a potent steroid, which has an 85 percent chance of reducing symptoms.
If you have an acoustic neuroma and suffer from tinnitus, the tinnitus may be resolved through a surgical removal of the acoustic neuroma. However, for a number of people, this surgery can make the tinnitus worse. If you develop this condition, your physician will discuss all of your options.
Hearing loss causes maladaptive neuroplastic changes in the brain. Hearing aids are used to stimulate the auditory pathways received by the brain. Background sounds can mask tinnitus. Hearing aids can also help the patient better distinguish one sound from another, improving communication and helping with focus and concentration difficulties. Many devices also come packaged with noise generators to replace ambient sounds if amplification alone does not reduce tinnitus.
Counseling, sleep and cognitive behavioral or relaxation methods can be practical in helping you manage your tinnitus symptoms by reducing the stress, anxiety and sleeplessness that are often associated with tinnitus. Total Hearing Care audiologists teach methods to help you manage your tinnitus symptoms.
There is no definitive empirical research indicating that certain medications or supplements will treat tinnitus successfully. In fact, some supplements contain ingredients that can make your tinnitus worse. However, in cases where the tinnitus causes disruption to life activities, a physician may prescribe medication to treat any anxiety, sleeping disorders, or depression related to the tinnitus.
Call Total Hearing Care at (214) 827-1900 for more information or to schedule an appointment.