Tinnitus

Tinnitus Evaluation and Consultation

Tinnitus is often referred to as “ringing in the ears”. It is not a disease in and of itself; rather a symptom or side effect of many different underlying causes. One of the primary causes of tinnitus is exposure to extremely loud sounds for long durations of time. Tinnitus is very common, most of us experience a certain degree of tinnitus as our hearing begins to decline. Here are the things you need to know about Tinnitus.

We get a lot of patients who suffer from tinnitus, and it can be a devastating condition. But there are a few things you can do to help minimize the effects on your own, and those in the industry are working tirelessly to develop technological solutions as well. Here are a few tips and facts about tinnitus that might help those suffering to be able to cope a little more effectively.

What causes tinnitus?

Many times, tinnitus is simply a byproduct of overall hearing loss. It can also be caused by ear infections or more serious neurological causes. Regardless, it’s a frustrating thing to have to handle. What’s worse is that the symptoms are often exacerbated by stress. The more the buzzing or ringing irritates you, the more frustrated you get, the worse it becomes. It’s a vicious cycle that leaves many patients desperate for relief. One natural solution is to be aware of this factor and try to reduce your stress level. Some other everyday factors that may intensify your tinnitus are:

  • Stress
  • Emotional State
  • Diet
  • Certain medications

Try out a few new healthy practices by reducing or eliminating certain dietary elements. If you’re still not sure what’s causing the ringing, or it’s getting more severe, see your doctor to be sure you’re not dealing with anything life-threatening.

Tinnitus Cures

As prevalent as tinnitus is, its not very well understood. The underlying causes look to exist somewhere in the central auditory system, but the origin and biological cause hasn’t been identified. As a result, no medicinal cures exist. Some people swear by supplements, but there isn’t any evidence to backup their claims.

Unfortunately, despite the leaps we’ve made in healthcare, the best thing we can do for tinnitus is to try our best to prevent it. Minimizing noise induced hearing loss is the best method of prevention that we know. For those who already suffer from tinnitus, this isn’t good news, but there is hope for relief.

Audiology Today had an article recently that strikes an emotional cord for those who suffer from Tinnitus:

“Rather than consult a professional, tinnitus sufferers may self-medicate in hopes of managing or curing their tinnitus. But while more than 50 over-the-counter products are available that claim some form of relief or a cure for tinnitus, none of them are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.”

Here’s what you need to know before purchasing an over the counter tinnitus relief product:

  1. Don’t spend much.
  2. Make sure it’s safe.
  3. Seek professional help.

Even if you believe in what unverified sources purport about their products, Robert Disogra created a list of the ingredients he found with medical descriptions and recommendations, here. It’s an incredible resource that you should check before putting anything on or in your body.

Jared Cocken loaded a video onto Vimeo to simulate what someone with Tinnitus / Hyperacusis might experience:

If the video makes you feel startled and uncomfortable, can you imagine what it would be like to live with the condition? We’ve discussed tinnitus in detail before, so today we’ll focus on a less common condition of hyperacusis and a similar condition, misophonia. Roughly 40% of the people who suffer from tinnitus also experience mild hyperacusis. The two are often discussed within the same conversation.

Hyperacusis

While those who suffer from tinnitus experience ringing in their ears, hyperacusis is an over-sensitivity to certain frequency and volume ranges in their environmental sound. A person with severe hyperacusis has difficulty tolerating everyday sounds, some of which may seem unpleasant or painfully loud.

Hyperacusis and tinnitus share commonalities. Both are often brought on by overexposure to excessively high decibel levels (or sound pressure levels) and there are other conditions and pharmaceuticals that can contribute. They both seem to emanate from damage within the same areas of our hearing systems.

According to Wikipedia, musicians are susceptible:

“Although severe hyperacusis is rare, a lesser form of hyperacusis affects musicians, making it difficult for them to play in the very loud environment of a rock band or orchestra which previously gave them no problems. It also makes attendance at loud discos or live events difficult for a portion of the population.”

Misophonia

Unlike tinnitus and hyperacusis, misophonia isn’t necessarily brought on by hearing-system dysfunction. It seems to stem from a different part of the brain. According to Wikipedia:

“Misophonia literally translates into “hatred of sound”, it is a neurological disorder in which negative experiences (anger, flight, hatred, disgust) are triggered by specific sounds. The sounds can be loud or soft and trigger immediate and extremely negative emotional response accompanied by an automatic physiological flight response to identifiable auditory, visual, and olfactory stimuli. The disorder disrupts daily living and can have a significant impact on social interactions

People who have misophonia are most commonly angered, and even enraged, by common ambient sounds, such as other people clipping their nails, brushing teeth, eating crushed ice, eating, slurping, drinking, breathing, sniffing, talking, sneezing, yawning, walking, chewing gum, laughing, snoring, typing on a keyboard, whistling or coughing; saying certain consonants; or repetitive sounds.”

Misophonia isn’t currently categorized within the DSM, but we have much more to learn about causes, symptoms and prevalence before it will be widely discussed.

Treating Misophonia or Hyperacusis

While these conditions stem from different places, they can be treated in similar ways. Custom fitted ear plugs can be made that allow for selected frequencies to flow through while others are dampened or blocked. If you are experiencing a sensitivity to sound and would like to see if there is a solution for you, give us a call today.

There is No Replacement for Professional Help

Almost everyday, people come to the Vail Valley Hearing Center who complain about tinnitus. There is no doubt that it can be an unbearable condition. There is no cure, but there are solutions for relief.

For most of the over the counter products people find online, the best case scenario is that you waste money on something that has no effect. If an over the counter solution worked, audiologists and other hearing professionals would recommend them.

How are we responding?

We see tinnitus not as a challenge, but something that we can help our patients. We offer hearing aids that have tinnitus sound therapy solutions built into them. If you can’t cure or prevent the symptoms, you can at least take steps to make them bearable. We’ll fit you with the right hearing aid to help you cope. Suffering from tinnitus? Stop in to see how we can help.

For severe cases of tinnitus, we conduct a tinnitus evaluation and hearing consultation. We begin by working with you to catalogue particular symptoms (frequency, loudness and the general pitch of the tinnitus).

Next, a “tinnitus matching” test is conducted following a hearing test, which helps us determine the specific frequency (pitch) and intensity (loudness) of your tinnitus. If it is determined that the patient’s tinnitus is a result of an underlying medical condition, then a referral is made to an ENT.

For patients that do not require a referral to an ENT doctor, the audiologist will make recommendations on how the tinnitus can be addressed through our professional hearing services.

When an individual has hearing loss, the use of hearing aid amplification to treat it will also address the tinnitus. The hearing aid amplification allows the individual to hear speech and sounds in the environment more clearly. When speech and sounds in the environment become more prominent, the tinnitus becomes less distracting. We offer digital hearing aids that have features built into them specifically for tinnitus.

Tinnitus Relief

Many of the hearing aid manufacturers today have hearing devices with tinnitus sound therapy built into them (i.e. ReSound Relief App)Though noise induced hearing loss and stress can encourage tinnitus, music can be used to treat some of the effects. Peaceful and relaxing sounds like chanting, nature and music can help treat anxiety rather than induce it, so sound therapy is being incorporated into hardware that is used by hearing specialists to treat tinnitus.

The Role of Music in Recovery

Music is more than just entertainment. Music therapy has been used to speed recovery in hospitals, to aid rehabilitation among stroke victims, and as an effective treatment to impede the advance of Alzheimer’s dementia. White noise generators have been used to overcome sleep disorders and to conceal the background sounds of noisy environments.

In the field of audiology, music therapy and sound therapy are showing promising results as a tinnitus treatment alternative. While the music does not make the tinnitus go away, we can work with patients to psychologically mask the buzzing or ringing sounds. By using specialized tones or carefully chosen music tracks, audiologists have been able to teach tinnitus sufferers to retrain their minds to prefer the sounds they want to hear over the buzzing sounds caused by the tinnitus. While the tinnitus ringing doesn’t go away, the anxiety and stress that it otherwise produced is lessened. Patients learn to focus attention on appealing sounds in favor of undesirable ones.

Music Therapy for Tinnitus

After reading this New York Times article in 2010, Youtube user Evestrough uploaded a video detailing his DIY steps for alleviating his tinnitus.

The article stated:

(After a year) The technique used by Hidehiko Okamoto, Henning Stracke and Christo Pantev of Westfalian Wilhelms-University and Wolfgang Stoll of Muenster University Hospital…reported a significant improvement in their tinnitus — the ringing was not as loud — compared with others who listened to music that was notched at frequencies not corresponding to their ringing frequency.

If you are interested in learning more about how music therapy can help your tinnitus, give us a call today.

Tinnitus Information

We are here to help you hear better and retain a better quality of life. If you or a loved one suffers from tinnitus, we can help provide the tinnitus relief you need. For more information on tinnitus, the American Tinnitus Association and the Tinnitus Research Initiative provide a wealth of information.

If you need relief from tinnitus, Google your nearest audiologist instead of buying something that doesn’t work. At The Vail Valley Hearing Center, we conduct a free tinnitus evaluation with a hearing consultation. After determining your particular symptoms, a “tinnitus matching” test helps us determine the specific frequency (pitch) and intensity (loudness) of your tinnitus for the best tuning and results.