Do you often hear ringing, clicking, or hissing sounds? Do you hear these sounds often, or constantly? Does this bother you?
If you answer yes to any these questions, you may have tinnitus (tin-NY-tus), a symptom that can be associated with hearing loss. Tinnitus can also be a symptom of additional health issues. Approximately 25 million Americans have experienced some form of tinnitus. Some of these cases can be so severe that it interrupts their daily life, as they may find it difficult to hear, concentrate, and even sleep.
What causes tinnitus?
- Hearing loss: Many people who experience tinnitus also experience some form of hearing loss.
- Loud noise: Exposure to loud noises can cause both hearing loss and tinnitus, and continued exposure to these loud noises can make both tinnitus and hearing loss get even worse.
- Medicine: Over 200 medicines (including aspirin) can cause tinnitus. If you take medicine and also experience tinnitus, ask your doctor or pharmacist whether your medicine could be involved.
- Other potential causes: Allergies, tumors, problems in the heart and blood vessels, jaws, and neck can cause tinnitus.
What should I do if I think I may have tinnitus?
You should schedule an evaluation with a hearing care professional. Audiometric testing can help determine the most likely causes best treatment options. You may also be referred for an ear, nose and throat exam in order to complete the diagnosis.
How will an audiologist treat my tinnitus?
While there is no known cure for tinnitus, audiologists, scientists and doctors have identified several treatments that may provide relief. Not all of these treatments work the same for everyone, so some trial and error may be recommended. Treatments can include:
- Hearing aids: Many people with tinnitus also have hearing loss. Hearing aids can enhance hearing while also covering up tinnitus. Many patients with tinnitus experience partial or sometimes even complete relief from tinnitus with the use of a hearing aids.
- Sound Generators: This is a small electronic devices that looks just like a hearing aid. It generates various sounds to blend in with tinnitus. These sounds are very quiet and do not interfere with communication. Over a period of time, the blending sound can be used in conjunction with tinnitus counseling.
- Medicine: Some sufferers of tinnitus can develop anxiety in response to their tinnitus. Certain medication can provide relief from these reactions and from the tinnitus itself.
- Counseling: People with tinnitus may sometimes experience anxiety and depression as a result. Psychological counseling can help in these situations.
- Relaxing: Finding a way to relax can help if the tinnitus is stressful and frustrating.
How can I help myself if I experience tinnitus?
Think about things that will help you manage your tinnitus. Many people report that listening to music can help as it provides something to focus on while masking the sound. Others listen to recorded sounds like ocean waves, wind, and even crickets.
You should avoid anything that can make your tinnitus worse, such as loud noise, smoking, and alcohol. If you engage in work or activities in which you are regularly exposed to loud noises, wear earplugs or noise cancelling headphones to protect your hearing and keep your tinnitus from worsening. If you have a hard time hearing above your tinnitus, ask people to face you when they talk so you can see their faces as seeing their expressions may help you to understand them. Ask them to speak louder, but not to shout, and tell them they do not have to talk more slowly, just more clearly.
The Levo System
The Levo System, by a company called Otoharmonics, is nightly sound therapy designed to improve the quality of life for tinnitus sufferers. The user-friendly software allows you to listen to your customized sound match on an Apple iPod touch®. Custom-fit earbuds that are designed to ensure comfort during sleep allow for controlled delivery of sound therapy.