Meandering Through A Hearing World


All About Tinnitus

Is a ringing, roaring, hissing, or buzzing sound in your ears driving you crazy? If so, chances are you are among the 10% of people in the United States suffering from Tinnitus, a symptom of underlying disease or hearing loss that occurs equally in men, women, or children of any age.

Tinnitus has its root in a variety of medical problems. Most with Tinnitus have a sensorineural hearing loss or Meniere’s disease. It might also originate from earwax buildup, medication, trauma, aging, a head or neck injury, or emotional distress. More than 80% of people with hearing loss have some form of Tinnitus, though some do not have this debilitating symptom.

Listening to the continuous rings or buzzes can upset one’s psyche. Tinnitus can affect your work, your personal relationships, and interrupt sleep patterns. Some suffering from Tinnitus end up under employed. People with Tinnitus are prone to anxiety, depression, and mood swings. Some people find they cannot concentrate on anything while under a Tinnitus attack.

There are two types of Tinnitus. Therapy depends on the type that you have, which is why it is important to see a doctor or audiologist if you start hearing continuous abnormal sounds. While working someone up for the source of the Tinnitus, a doctor or audiologist will take a complete medical history and ask about the drugs that you take. You will have an audiogram. The examiner will place a stethoscope over the patient’s outer ear. If the examiner hears the same sound as the patient then the symptom is dubbed Objective Tinnitus.

If your doctor suspects you have Objective Tinnitus, you will most likely have a CAT scan or MRI as part of your workup to determine if you have inner ear damage. Problems of this sort occur after an injury or a trauma that result in a broken blood vessel, damage to the bones of the inner ear, or muscle contractions within the inner ear. Once the injury is repaired and healed, the Tinnitus usually goes away.

Those diagnosed with Subjective Tinnitus are bothered by sounds only they can hear. There are several ways to treat Subjective Tinnitus. Doctors and audiologists usually recommend hearing aids even if there is only mild hearing loss. Most of the major hearing aid manufacturers have Tinnitus therapy options, known as white noise, built into their hearing aids. Via a setting on their hearing aids, the patient listens to distracting sounds such as water trickling or ocean waves, in the hope that their brain will focus away from the sound of Tinnitus. If you have no hearing loss associated with your tinnitus then you will receive treatment through the use of specialized equipment that can deliver white noise. Often this type of treatment is very successful.

Some hearing aid manufacturers are experimenting with new treatments called Tinnitus Notch Therapy. In this type of treatment, the audiologist or physician identifies the sound frequency of the Tinnitus and then lowers it, until it fades into normal background noise thus retraining your brain to hear those annoying sounds as you would hear environmental sounds. Eventually you learn to ignore the sound. 65% of those who try this therapy see a success.

Tinnitus is not an easy condition to deal with, but there are many therapy options. If you are meandering through the hearing world with this problem, you might want to see a doctor or audiologist to receive the help that you need. When Tinnitus and hearing loss are treated, most people experience more productive and happier lives.

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Linda Bilodeau

I’ve grappled with hearing loss since 1978. Through it all, I’ve faced periods of denial, acceptance, curiosity, trust and hope. But more often than not, I’ve felt annoyed, angry and frightened. I’ve encountered despair, loneliness and envy. I’ve experienced panic attacks. I’ve met understanding people, kind souls who helped me a great deal and others who thought I had nothing short of an invisible plague. As a way of coming to terms with my hearing loss, I’ve decided to put my feelings about my disability down on paper. My hope is to better understand myself and perhaps you’ll find a little something in my meanderings that will help you, too.

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