Tinnitus is the term used to describe the condition of perceiving a ringing, buzzing, whooshing, or other noise in the absence of an external sound source. This is typically only experienced by the person with tinnitus and has a variety of different causes.
Treating the cause
Tinnitus can be caused by many things, and is usually a symptom of an underlying condition. The treatment for your particular tinnitus will depend on the condition that is causing it, the severity, any accompanying issues such as hearing loss, and the impact the tinnitus has on daily activities.
Common causes of tinnitus include:
- Hearing loss
- Exposure to loud noises
- Earwax buildup or blockages
- Abnormal bone growth in the ear
- Meniere’s disease
- Head or neck injuries
- Benign tumor of the cranial nerve
- Vascular disorders
- Stress or depression
In order to try to determine the cause of your tinnitus, your audiologist will complete a thorough medical history and a complete diagnostic hearing evaluation. The audiologist might refer you to an ear, nose and throat physician if the test results or your symptoms suggest the need for medical evaluation.
What treatments are available?
Depending on the cause of your tinnitus and other factors, several treatments are available to relieve your tinnitus symptoms, including hearing aids and sound enrichment devices and therapy.
A common treatment is acoustic therapy or sound therapy. Sound therapy makes use of sounds to help the brain re-focus and diminish the emotional impact of the tinnitus.
Hearing aids are a common treatment option for tinnitus. Hearing aids can be equipped with a tinnitus-masking feature, if needed, to help distract the individual from the tinnitus noise and provide emotional relief. Often, the use of hearing aids alone reduces the impact of tinnitus while improving an individual’s hearing.
Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT)
One treatment that incorporates sound therapy is called tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT), also known as habituation therapy. This therapy attempts to retrain your brain into perceiving the tinnitus in a different way. Typical behavioral therapy may also be included to help the individual cope with any emotional difficulties they’re experiencing, including depression, stress or anger.
After treatment has taken place, further maintenance is important. This may include management of associated health problems or ongoing therapies to support health and manage tinnitus.