My Ears Are Ringing! What Treatments Are Available?
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; which is not a disease but is 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.
Tinnitus most commonly accompanies 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, exposure to 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 consult your physician. Once your doctor has determined that there is nothing that needs to be medically managed you should ask to be referred to an Audiologist. An Audiologist is a person who has obtained their masters or doctoral degree in hearing and balance disorders. The Audiologist will conduct a comprehensive hearing evaluation and tinnitus assessment. Post assessment, the results are reviewed with you and a follow-up appointment is scheduled to discuss your individual options if further treatment is desired.
Since tinnitus often accompanies 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 occurring sounds from the environment to be heard again which may partially or completely mask the tinnitus as well as improve overall ease of listening.
For some individuals hearing aids are either not an option or are not enough. However, other options are available and include devices that produce a sound to mask the tinnitus allowing for immediate relief. This is done either through devices that are worn or placed next to you. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Progressive Tinnitus Management are proven treatment options which help a person learn how to cope with and change the brains response to the tinnitus for long-term benefit.
If you have any questions, Columbus Regional Health's Speech Therapy & Audiology Services has three audiologists who are able to assist you. We look forward to helping you better manage your tinnitus.
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