Tinnitus (pronounced ti-NIGHT-us or TIN-i-tus) is a phantom sound, meaning that no one can hear it but the person who has it. For most people, it sounds like “ringing in the ears,” though it can also appear as a roaring, clicking, screeching, or hissing sound. It may happen frequently or constantly.
About 25 million Americans have experienced tinnitus. Tinnitus is not a “disease” in itself. It is a symptom associated with much other underlying hearing or medical issues. It is the #1 medical concern affecting veterans returning from active duty while hearing loss is #2. Some of the common causes of tinnitus include:
Some people are not bothered by tinnitus. It may be that during the day, when another sound is present, they don’t even notice it. At night, it may be noticeable but not bothersome. For others, tinnitus can be extremely distracting. It can slow down work, prevent sleep, and result in depression and anxiety.
Assessment and Treatment of Tinnitus
At Austin Hearing Services, our years of experience have led to the development of a variety of approaches to treating tinnitus that provide relief for the majority of our patients. Before treatment, we conduct a comprehensive assessment to find the root cause(s) of your tinnitus. This assessment includes pure-tone audiometry, tympanometry, acoustic reflexes, otoacoustic emissions, and speech discrimination tests.
We also conduct an interview using the Tinnitus Handicap Inventory (THI) to grade the severity of your tinnitus. Based on our objective measurements and your subjective experience of your tinnitus, we put together a treatment plan tailored to your needs. Treatment may include the use of hearing aids, sound therapy, and/or behavioral modification therapy.
If hearing aids alone are not enough to alleviate the problems associated with your tinnitus, or if your tinnitus is not accompanied by hearing loss, we will recommend sound therapy. Many hearing aids can provide sound therapy, which can be switched on and off as desired. Different types of noise or chime-like sounds can be employed, with or without amplification, to mask tinnitus and provide relief.
Sound therapy will most often be accompanied by education, counseling, and stress reduction. We may also refer you to other professionals such as therapists, dentists, or neurologists. Bringing in professionals from these other disciplines helps to offer a more comprehensive, holistic approach to tinnitus treatment. We have found that this approach has a high success rate, and the professionals in our office are employing it more and more frequently.