Tinnitus Management

Tinnitus Treatment: Finding Relief from Persistent Ringing in the Ears

Tinnitus is a condition characterized by the perception of sound without any external source. This phantom noise can range from a low hum to a high-pitched ringing and can be intermittent or constant, significantly impacting an individual's quality of life. Fortunately, there are numerous treatment options available to help manage tinnitus and provide relief to those affected by this persistent condition.

What is Tinnitus?

Hearing things? No, you are not alone!

Tinnitus isn't an illness, but rather a symptom of an underlying medical condition.

The word tinnitus is of Latin origin, meaning "to ring or tinkle." Tinnitus has two different pronunciations, both of which are correct and interchangeable:

  • ti-NIGHT-us :: typically used by patients and laypeople
  • TINN-a-tus :: typically used by clinicians and researchers

It is the perception of sound when no actual external noise is present. While it is commonly referred to as “ringing in the ears,” tinnitus can manifest many different perceptions of sound, including buzzing, hissing, whistling, swooshing, and clicking. The sound may seem to come from one ear or both, from inside the head, or from a distance. It may be constant or intermittent, steady, or pulsating.

These phantom noises can be merely annoying, or they can seriously interfere with daily activities. According to the American Tinnitus Association, more than 50 million Americans have tinnitus symptoms on a regular basis, if not more often.

Did You Know?

The prevalence of tinnitus in Australia is estimated to be 1 in 3 people, and 1 in 6 suffer from it on a daily basis.

Tinnitus is often accompanied by a hearing loss, which accounts for about 90% of cases. World Health Organization (WHO) now defines tinnitus as a distinct condition and says that noise exposure is a substantial cause of permanent hearing loss globally. After age-related hearing loss, this is the second most common type of hearing loss. Although prevalence increases with age, it is common across all age groups, particularly following exposure to loud noise.

The condition is reported to be moderately or very debilitating to their quality of life by nearly 50% of individuals who suffer from it. Anxiety, depression, and sleep problems are all possible side effects.

How Sound Works

If you have tinnitus, you may have little understanding of what it is, why it occurs and what you can do about it. Understanding tinnitus and what causes it can help you to manage the condition. However, before you can understand the tinnitus, it’s important to understand how sound works. Here we share with you a video from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) that demonstrates how sound is supposed to make its journey from an external source, through the ear to the brain where it is perceived and understood.

Note: As with all videos, please make sure your volume on your computer is turned down to a comfortable volume.

Measuring Tinnitus

Tinnitus is a subjective disorder, but there are clinical approaches to assess its audiometric and psychological consequences. The first step in treating tinnitus is to properly diagnose it. Here are some tests that hearing professionals can use to assess tinnitus.

Audiometric Testing of Hearing Loss and Tinnitus

Tinnitus can be evaluated and diagnosed by audiologists and other hearing health professionals. Because tinnitus is frequently caused by hearing loss, most clinicians begin with a full audiological evaluation. Typical hearing exams are:

Speech recognition test: A subjective assessment of a patient’s ability to hear and repeat certain words. Occasionally referred to as speech audiometry.

Pure tone audiogram is a subjective test that assesses the patient’s hearing across a range of frequencies (in Hertz) and loudness (measured in decibels).

Tympanogram: An objective test that evaluates the middle ear’s function, specifically the tympanic membrane’s and conduction bones’ mobility.

Acoustic reflex testing: An objective test that assesses the response of the middle ear muscles to loud noises.

Otoacoustic emission testing: The objective measurement of hair cell movement within the inner ear using extremely sensitive microphones.

It is critical to ascertain the precise gaps in a tinnitus patient’s hearing, as this frequently correlates with the form and quality of their tinnitus. (For example, high-frequency hearing loss frequently occurs in conjunction with high-frequency tinnitus.) Additionally, unique hearing markers may provide insight into various tinnitus therapy alternatives.

Hearing health specialists utilise an additional battery of tests when examining tinnitus situations. While there is no objective means to diagnose tinnitus at the moment, there are numerous protocols for assessing the patient’s subjective experience of tinnitus sound, pitch, and volume. To be more precise, the clinician may conduct the following tests:

Tinnitus Sound Matching: Patients are presented with typical tinnitus sounds in order to assist them in identifying their unique tinnitus experience. The health care provider may alter the pitch and layer various sounds to generate a precise audio representation of the tinnitus. Appropriate matching establishes a critical foundation for later tinnitus management therapy, which are frequently tailored to the unique characteristics of each patient.

Minimum Masking Level: The volume at which external narrowband noise conceals (or covers) the perception of tinnitus. The minimum masking level provides an approximation of how loud a patient feels his or her tinnitus and can be used in later tinnitus masking and sound therapy.

Loudness Discomfort Level: The volume at which external sound becomes uncomfortable or painful for a tinnitus patient. Sound therapy, masking, and hearing aids are all possible tinnitus treatments. Determining loudness discomfort levels is critical for those with severe noise sensitivity.

Additional tests may be ordered based on the patient’s symptoms, medical history, and/or risk factors. An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) may be required in extreme cases of tinnitus but should only be used when independent clinical evaluation shows particular (rare) tinnitus etiologies.

Measuring Tinnitus Burden

Tinnitus has a detrimental effect on more than simply hearing; it can also result in a cascade of negative mental, cognitive, and physical effects. The distinction between tinnitus being a minor or severe concern for people is frequently less about the amplitude of the tinnitus as it is about how the tinnitus affects other aspects of their lives.

As a result, clinicians and researchers have devised inventory tests to assess a patient's subjective burden caused by tinnitus. Tinnitus testing can come in a variety of forms, but they all measure the patient's personal response to the condition:

Tinnitus Handicap Inventory: This was created as a quick, easy-to-administer method for assessing the debilitating effects of tinnitus. It may be used in the initial assessment of handicap or subsequently as a means of determining treatment outcome.

Tinnitus Reaction Questionnaire: A psychological distress scale that was developed to assess the psychological suffering associated with tinnitus.

Tinnitus Functional Index: Is comprised of eight subscales that assess tinnitus intrusiveness, the patient's sense of control, cognitive interference, sleep disturbance, auditory difficulties, relaxation concerns, quality of life, and emotional distress.

How Can We Help?

Even while it's alarming the first time you notice Tinnitus, it's not usually a sign of something more serious. If your symptoms persist for more than a week or are interfering with your ability to concentrate, sleep, or relax, make an appointment with your doctor or a Hearing Buddy expert in your area.

Hearing Buddy provides a Comprehensive Tinnitus Assessment and specialised services in Tinnitus Management in addition to a Comprehensive Hearing Assessment.

We do a thorough examination of your medical history and administer a battery of tests to determine the root of the problem. This will assist you in determining the reasons of your tinnitus and will also provide you with strategies for managing your tinnitus. If hearing loss is present, we can offer you a variety of hearing aids that can assist in managing your tinnitus, address your hearing loss, and fit your lifestyle. Even if your hearing is normal, we can discuss ways to manage your tinnitus or refer you to other professionals, depending on your circumstances.

There is no cure for tinnitus, but fortunately, it can be managed. There are specific hearing aid programmes designed to drown out the sound of tinnitus. Hearing aids with this tinnitus feature augment the volume of external noise to the point that it masks the sound of tinnitus. This makes it more difficult to consciously perceive tinnitus and helps the brain focus on outside, ambient noises. The masking impact of hearing aids is particularly strong for patients who have hearing loss in the same frequency range as their tinnitus.

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