Ask the Professional: My Ears Are Ringing!

Approximately 50 million people in the United States perceive a ringing, buzzing, hissing, crickets or roaring sound in their ears or head.  This sound is called Tinnitus.  Tinnitus is not a disease but a symptom of many different ear conditions.  It is one of the most common and frustrating ear problems that can interfere with one’s quality of life. 

The most common causes of tinnitus are hearing loss, noise exposure, head/neck injury, excessive ear wax and certain types of medication.  There are also factors that may increase the perceived loudness of the tinnitus such as: stress, loud noise/music, caffeine and tobacco use.   Some people perceive tinnitus to be a slight, temporary irritation but for others it affects their ability to work, listen, socialize or sleep.

For the majority of people there is no cure for tinnitus but there are management options available that can help lessen the impact that tinnitus has on one’s life.  The first step is to be evaluated by a physician.  Once your doctor has determined that there is nothing medically that can be done, you should ask to be referred to an audiologist.  An Audiologist is a person who has obtained their masters or doctorate degree in hearing and balance disorders.  The audiologist will conduct a comprehensive hearing evaluation and tinnitus assessment.  After all evaluations are completed, a follow appointment will be made to discuss your individual options.

The most common cause of tinnitus is hearing loss.  For most people, appropriately fit hearing aids are all that is needed to improve their quality of life.  The hearing aids allow for natural sounds to be heard again which partially or completely masks the tinnitus. 

For some hearing aids are either not an option or are not enough.  For those other options include devices that produce a sound to mask the tinnitus.  This allows for an immediate relief of the tinnitus sound.  This is done either through devices that are worn or placed next to you.  Biofeedback can help a person learn how to cope with and change the brains response to the tinnitus.

If you have any questions, the Audiologists at Columbus Regional Hospital will be happy to assist you.  Please contact us at 812-376-5373, option 2 or toll free at 800-841-4938, extension 5373.

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