Tinnitus is the auditory perception of sounds, such as a ringing or buzzing, within the ears or head in the absence of external sound. Many of us have experienced this at some point in our lives, whether it was after attending a loud concert, being exposed to heavy machinery, firearms, certain medications, or a head cold. Typically, this “noise in the ears” may subside, but in many cases, it does not.
According to the American Academy of Audiology, approximately 30 million people experience tinnitus in their daily lives. When unaddressed, tinnitus can result in more than a mere annoyance. The physical and psychological effects of tinnitus are vast and varied, ranging from lack of sleep, or from the inability to concentrate to anxiety or depression. Extreme negative reaction to tinnitus can lead to isolation from others, withdrawing from social situations, and missing out on life’s great moments.
It doesn’t have to be this way. While there is no “cure,” for tinnitus, there are effective ways to manage it. Consulting with an audiologist and Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) is the first and most important step to take. An audiologist will ask for the case history of a patient and perform a hearing evaluation. This can include a hearing test, a pitch (tone or frequency) assessment of tinnitus, patient questionnaires, and interview. In addition, a medical professional such as an ENT physician may help rule out medical concerns connected to the tinnitus.
There are behavioral techniques and strategies designed to help those who are affected by tinnitus. First, some techniques teach skills to reduce the psychological impact of tinnitus symptoms. This process may be overseen by a therapist in conjunction with an audiologist and has proven to be very effective at improving the quality of life for patients. Second, sound therapy is used to manage the effects of tinnitus. By presenting external sounds, the goal is to alter the perception of tinnitus, as well as the patient’s reaction to it. This practice can lead to the inhibition of, the distraction from, or the habituation of tinnitus to make it less stressful and invasive.
For individuals with hearing loss, the best treatment of tinnitus is the use of hearing instruments. Hearing instruments are known to not only decrease the perception of tinnitus but also treat the underlying hearing loss. Tinnitus is common in patients with hearing loss and, while there is no one-size-fits-all formula to manage tinnitus, hearing instruments have proven to be extremely effective. In addition, for individuals without hearing loss, many hearing devices have built-in tinnitus maskers to present soothing sounds.
The leading hearing experts at Wyoming Otolaryngology help individuals regain their freedom and independence by addressing tinnitus, and the possible impact of undiagnosed hearing loss. The audiology department at Wyoming Otolaryngology works hand-in-hand with the ENT providers to offer patients a chance to improve their health and well-being. With hearing and tinnitus evaluations, medical assessments, hearing instrument trials, and other tools to improve lives, the providers at Wyoming Otolaryngology can both diagnose and address tinnitus concerns all in one building. For a personal interview of your needs, please call 307-577-4240 to schedule an assessment.