Tinnitus is defined as the perception of sound in the absence of actual sound. It is a non-acoustic sound phenomenon that is generated somewhere within your ears and/or brain, not in the environment around you. Most people experience and describe tinnitus as “ringing in the ears,” though it can also appear in other forms, such as buzzing, clicking, hissing, swooshing or whistling.
Tinnitus might last for a short time and then stop. It may be present at some times and not others. Or, it may be present at all times. Some people are not bothered by their tinnitus, while others experience it as debilitating. The perceived volume of tinnitus seems to have a lot to do with this: if your tinnitus is “loud” enough to be heard throughout the day, you are likely to experience it as more of a problem.
Causes of Tinnitus
Tinnitus is a symptom, not an ailment in and of itself, and there are a number of underlying causes that may be responsible for it. Most of the time, tinnitus develops after hearing loss, but tinnitus can sometimes occur even in the absence of measurable hearing loss.
There are some 200 different health issues that can produce tinnitus as a symptom. Some of these are treatable, while others are not. Causes can range from TMJ disorders to chemical exposure. Even stress can generate or exacerbate tinnitus. In the vast majority of tinnitus cases, an underlying symptom is never conclusively identified.
If the start of your experience of tinnitus has coincided with taking a new prescription medication or receiving some other medical treatment, you should talk to your doctor. If your tinnitus seems to have begun on its own or may be accompanied by hearing loss, make an appointment with us. We will perform a full audiological examination, and will refer you to the appropriate medical professional if we suspect an underlying cause that requires non-audiological medical treatment.
What to Expect During a Tinnitus Evaluation
A tinnitus evaluation takes about 2 hours, from the time you walk in the door. We will start by asking you to fill out a questionnaire about the hearing issues you’re experiencing, your employment and employment history, activities you regularly engage in, medical history, and family medical history. Then we will interview you about your answers to the questionnaire, to get a more in-depth idea of what your experience of tinnitus is like.
From there, we will conduct a comprehensive hearing evaluation. Some aspects of the evaluation that are particular to cases of tinnitus include ultra-high frequency audiometry (up to 14 kHz), pitch and loudness matching, loudness discomfort level testing, residual inhibition testing, and masking studies.
After testing, we will review our findings with you and talk about some of the treatments and therapies we might recommend. We may also refer you to a different medical specialist, such as an ENT (otolaryngologist) or an allergist.
Treatments for Tinnitus
Evidence-based treatments for tinnitus include masking, hearing aids, acoustic sound therapies, and meditation.
Masking involves introducing sound into the environment that covers up—”masks”—the sound of tinnitus. Just about any sound you can think of can be used to successfully mask tinnitus. Many people enjoy simply turning on a box fan, while others may use sound generators or recordings of nature sounds.
Contact Resnick Audiology today to make an appointment for a tinnitus evaluation today.