Understanding Tinnitus

Tinnitus is one of the most common health conditions in the United States, and currently affects more than 50 million Americans. This disorder can present as a temporary condition or a chronic one; according to the American Tinnitus Association, it is estimated that roughly 20 million people struggle with burdensome chronic tinnitus, and 2 million with extreme debilitating symptoms. So what exactly is tinnitus and how is it treated?

By definition, tinnitus is the perception of sound when no actual external noise is present. Many people describe it as a constant ringing in the ears, however that is only one type of sound. Tinnitus can present itself as a hissing, buzzing, swooshing, whistling or even clicking in the ears. The majority of patients develop this disorder as a secondary condition of hearing loss.  As less outside sound stimuli travels to the brain due to hearing loss, the brain undergoes neuroplastic changes in how it processes the various sound frequencies, and tinnitus is the result.

While there is ongoing and promising research being done for the treatment of this condition, currently there is no proven cure for chronic tinnitus. Audiologists focus on managing the condition and finding the right combination of tools to allow patients to find relief and live productive lives. The most common treatment of symptoms is through utilization of hearing aids, sound therapies and behavioral therapies. By concentrating on the emotional and cognitive impact of tinnitus they allow patients to find ways to cope with the sound and redirect the brain to focus on other sounds.

Just because there is not currently a proven cure for tinnitus, does not mean that sufferers should not receive some form of treatment. Treating the symptoms of this disorder will stave off some of the more severe consequences of untreated tinnitus such as: depression, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, stress, lack of concentration and sleep issues. There are several different treatments available to help overcome the burden of tinnitus including the following:

  • Sound Therapy – Since tinnitus is a non-auditory internal sound produced by the brain, utilizing real external sounds can help to counteract or mask the sound of tinnitus.
  • Hearing Aids – Due to the fact that the majority of tinnitus patients have some form of hearing loss, treating the hearing loss and allowing external sounds to once again reach the brain, can often relieve tinnitus symptoms.
  • Behavioral Therapy – Since tinnitus can cause some serious emotional issues such as depression, anger and anxiety, focusing on the patient’s emotional reaction to the condition and giving them the tools to manage that reaction can be one of the most effective treatments.
  • Drug Therapy – There are not any medications that can cure or alleviate tinnitus, however many patients use anti-anxiety or anti-depression drugs to help control their emotional reaction to the condition, giving them some relief.

Here at Advanced Hearing Group we see tinnitus patients on a daily basis and understand the pain and frustration of this condition. Our audiologists have several options that, depending on the severity of the tinnitus, will help overcome the burden of this disorder. Check out our website for a list of hearing aids specifically designed with tinnitus treatment options.

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