What Is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is defined as the perception of sound when no actual external sound exists. Tinnitus is characterized by a persistent sound in one or both ears that is typically only heard by the affected individual. While commonly referred to as “ringing in the ears,” the tinnitus sound can be perceived as any number of sounds, including hissing, buzzing, humming, whistling, whooshing, and clicking, and it often fluctuates in loudness and/or sound quality.
According to The U.S. Centers for Disease Control, approximately 15% of the general population, or roughly 50 million Americans, may experience some form of tinnitus. Nearly 20 million people struggle with burdensome chronic tinnitus, while 2 million have extreme and debilitating cases. Tinnitus is a unique experience, which some describe as an annoyance or irritant, while others suffer greatly. Unfortunately, many people suffering from tinnitus are told there is nothing that can be done or that they need to learn to live with it. With the area’s most experienced tinnitus and sound sensitivity audiologist, Hearing & Balance Specialists of Kansas City offers hope to tinnitus sufferers.
What Causes Tinnitus?
There are many causes for tinnitus, as it is a symptom of some other underlying health condition. The most common cause is hearing loss. The first step in understanding the underlying cause of tinnitus is a thorough evaluation. Possible causes for tinnitus are:
Although hearing loss is the most common cause of tinnitus, many people with tinnitus deny any hearing concerns. However, we do know that the loss of certain sound frequencies, even if they are undetected by the tinnitus patient, leads to specific changes in how the brain processes sound. In short, as the brain receives less input from the ear around a specific frequency or pitch, it begins to adapt and change. The result is an increase in neurological noise, or tinnitus. Tinnitus may be the brain’s way of filling in the missing sound frequencies it no longer receives from the auditory system.
Is There a Cure?
There is currently no cure for tinnitus. However, there are well-established tools and management options that can significantly reduce the negative impact of tinnitus on your daily life. With perseverance and support from our expert audiologists, Drs. Sam Bittel, Flowers, and Lake, offers options to help even the most severe cases of tinnitus patients.
What Are the Options for Tinnitus Management?
Diagnostic audiological testing and a medical evaluation will rule out possible medical factors that could be causing or contributing to your tinnitus. Because your tinnitus symptoms are personal and unique in nature, an in-depth interview and tinnitus assessment will help us create a specialized tinnitus management plan for you.
The primary objective for all currently-available tinnitus management options is to lower the perception and disturbance of tinnitus, allowing the patient to live a more comfortable, unencumbered, and content life. The number one treatment for tinnitus for those who also experience hearing loss is the use of sound therapy, which can improve your hearing if necessary, and often reduce or eliminate your perception of tinnitus. There are a number of sound therapy options, including:
Hearing Aids: The most successful option for tinnitus patients also experiencing hearing loss, hearing aids can improve your communication ability while providing significant relief from tinnitus. We work with all major manufacturers, offering a wide array of technology.
Masking: An electronic device called a masker may be worn to distract from the ringing sensation. Maskers fit in the ear similarly to hearing aids and produce low-level sounds. In addition, bedside sound generators and other devices can also help remove the perception of ringing.
Tinnitus Therapy: A therapeutic process in which we specialize and has provided relief to many patients. Our process is a combination approach of both sound therapy and counseling, which together promotes long-term habituation (desensitization), allowing you to live your daily life far more peacefully.
Behavioral Therapies: Behavioral therapies have been shown to help reduce tinnitus-related distress, anxiety and depression, and to overall improve the body’s emotional reaction to tinnitus. Recommendation of behavioral therapy is a standard part of tinnitus therapy.