Pronounced TINN-it-tus, it is defined as the perception of sound in one or both ears or in the head when no external sound is present. It is often referred to as “ringing in the ears,” however some people hear hissing, roaring, whistling, chirping or clicking. It can be intermittent or constant, single or multi-tonal, and its level of disturbance can range from subtle to anxiety-provoking. The numbers of individuals affected by tinnitus can range from 50 – 90 million, and that’s just in the USA.
Tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease, so it’s important to treat the underlying cause. In most cases, tinnitus is accompanied by hearing loss, however some other factors can make the tinnitus worse:
- Noise exposure
- Head & neck trauma
- Vascular issues
- Wax build-up
- Jaw misalignment
- Certain types of tumors
- Other disorders (Meniere’s, thyroid disorders, etc)
While there is no cure, there are many treatments or therapies available to help alleviate the awareness of tinnitus. There is no “magic pill,” so it is important to realize that any therapy requires a commitment of time and personal effort in order to be most effective. Some available options for treatment include:
- Hearing aids have been found to be effective for many people in reducing their awareness of tinnitus while treating hearing loss.
- Alternative treatments such as cranio-sacral therapy, acupuncture, hyperbaric oxygen, hypnosis.
- Biofeedback techniques to manage stress and change body’s reaction to the stress and anxiety that tinnitus can cause.
- Sound therapy treatments to help reduce loudness or awareness of tinnitus. This can be done through sound machines (ocean sounds, white noise) or delivered through hearing aids (either white noise or musical tones).
- Counseling-based therapies that help to retrain the brain’s processing of the sound(s).
Sometimes a combination of treatments can be more effective than a single therapy. It is important to discuss treatment options with a qualified health professional.
by Amanda Knapp, Audiologist