What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus (pronounced “tin-eh-des”) is described as a sound or a series of sounds that are only perceptible to the individual experiencing them. Usually, these sounds are described as ringing, pulsing, or buzzing. The sounds can be heard in either one or both ears.
There are two distinct types of tinnitus, objective and subjective.
Objective tinnitus is actually quite rare. This is tinnitus where certain sounds heard by the patient actually can sometimes be heard by others! Object tinnitus is most closely associated with circulatory issues related to poor or obstructed blood flow, which can sometimes cause musculo-skeletal movements.
This, of course, means that subjective tinnitus is the far more common type of tinnitus that most people experience — as much as 99% of all cases, in fact.
Unlike objective tinnitus, no one outside of the person experiencing tinnitus can perceive its sounds.
Typically, tinnitus does not happen on its own. It is usually a symptom of a larger condition, such as head trauma, circulatory issues, and even hearing loss. Experts estimate that approximately 15% to 20% of Americans experience tinnitus, meaning that around 50 million people suffer from this complaint.
And when we say suffer, we’re not trying to be dramatic. Though there are varying degrees of severity when it comes to the effects of tinnitus, many people living with it describe debilitating experiences of relentlessly distracting sounds that disrupt their ability to live normal lives.
For these people, there is no quiet time, and certain aspects of their lifestyle, such as stress, can trigger tinnitus, seeming to make the sounds louder and even more distracting.
How is tinnitus treated?
The hearing care professionals at Colorado Ear Care use a multi-pronged approach to helping our patients manage the effects of tinnitus. We believe that with the right partnership, approach to testing, and application of a personalized treatment plan, most people can return to a more normal way of life, even though they are still living with tinnitus.
Before we get into our approach to treating tinnitus, it’s important for us to be perfectly clear: There is no cure for tinnitus. However, there are means for alleviating the effects of tinnitus, so instead of focusing on what we can’t do, we focus on what we can do to help people live comfortably with tinnitus.
Certain changes in lifestyle, as well a combination of counseling and technological interventions can make a world of difference in how you experience tinnitus.
Here are many of the methods that might be relevant to you as we develop your unique treatment plan:
There is no single reason that a person might have tinnitus. This is why we feel testing is so important to any treatment plan we develop for our patients. The more we can learn about your experience, the closer we can get to creating a solution that leads to the results you want.
Our full-scale hearing evaluation for tinnitus is designed to identify why you might have tinnitus, including hearing loss, blockage caused by earwax or some other obstruction, or auditory disorders.
Hearing aid fitting
Sometimes tinnitus is associated with a treatable hearing loss. Other times, it isn’t. Regardless, many of today’s hearing aids contain technology that can be used to treat the effects of tinnitus, even if you don’t have hearing loss.
This technology, called a masker, plays white noise at frequencies that can cancel out the ringing, buzzing, or pulsing sounds that are causing your distraction and anxiety. These features can be personalized to the wearer, and if you’re someone who also has a treatable hearing loss, then your devices can be programmed to support the frequencies you’re missing, as well.
Tinnitus retraining therapy
Sometimes, using hearing aids to mask your tinnitus and treat your hearing loss just isn’t enough. That’s normal. In order to help you get even more relief from your tinnitus, we recommend what is called tinnitus retraining therapy.
This technique uses sounds to treat your limbic system, which is the part of your brain connected to your emotional and behavioral responses to information. This method doesn’t aim to mask the sound, but instead create an equity between sounds you find pleasurable (like those of the ocean, for example) with the sounds of your tinnitus in an effort to help your limbic system relax.
In certain instances, your primary care physician can be involved in your tinnitus treatment plan, which can include assessing any medications you might currently be on that could be exacerbating your tinnitus, or they could recommend certain medications designed to reduce the stress and feelings of anxiety your tinnitus is causing.
As is the case with most things, reducing your level of stress, increasing how much you exercise, and incorporating wellness techniques into your life like meditation, yoga, and mental health counseling can do wonders in alleviating the effects of tinnitus.
Colorado Ear Care specializes in the diagnosis and management of tinnitus
If you or a loved one are suffering from the effects of tinnitus, then Colorado Ear Care is here to help. Living a life with tinnitus can feel hopeless, and we believe that you deserve to finally understand what your options are in living a more peaceful and normal way of life.
Contact us today for your tinnitus consultation!