Tinnitus is the perception of noise that usually lacks an external cause. (In some cases, a sound that’s normally imperceptible, such as your own pulse, can be abnormally amplified.) Some people refer to it as “ringing in the ears,” although the sound doesn’t have to be ringing; it can also be buzzing, hissing, whistling, or other sounds. Tinnitus is not a disease in itself. Rather, it is a symptom, which can be caused by a number of different conditions.
For many people, tinnitus is merely a nuisance. However, for others, it can interfere with their daily activities. It may be hard to hear others speak with the acoustic interference of your tinnitus. Concentrating on work or study may also be difficult for tinnitus sufferers, because tinnitus is distracting. In some cases, it may even keep people from sleeping at night.
Causes of tinnitus
Tinnitus is very common, with official estimates indicating that up to 20% of the population experiences it. Many different conditions can cause tinnitus. The most common cause is prolonged exposure to loud sounds. When this is the cause, the patient may have both tinnitus and hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss can also be associated with tinnitus.
However, there are also other causes of tinnitus. These range from benign conditions, such as a buildup of earwax, to more serious ones, such as Meniere’s disease (a disease of the inner ear).
Treatment of tinnitus
At Advanced Audiology Consultants, we offer Chicago tinnitus treatment for people suffering from this condition. The first step in treating tinnitus is to determine the underlying cause. If it’s something treatable, such as an ear infection or a buildup of wax, then treating the cause will generally be enough to get rid of the tinnitus.
If the underlying cause of tinnitus is something more difficult to treat, then the treatment is focused on helping the person with tinnitus to function as well as possible in daily life. For the majority of tinnitus sufferers, whose condition is caused by prolonged exposure to loud noises over the course of years, the damage cannot be reversed. However, there are treatments available that can minimize the effect of tinnitus on your daily life.
Some patients benefit from a tinnitus masker, which produces sounds that can help to cancel out the sound of the tinnitus. For those who suffer from both hearing loss and tinnitus, a device that includes both a hearing aid and a tinnitus masker can be used. There are three hearing aid manufacturers that make hearing aids with FDA-approved tinnitus maskers. For our patients seeking Chicago tinnitus treatment, we will help you choose the best one for you.
In other cases, patients benefit from tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT). Dr. Heiman has received specialized training in TRT, and offers this as part of her Chicago tinnitus treatment program when appropriate. TRT helps retrain the brain to ignore the sound of tinnitus and refocus on the important sound stimuli coming from the environment. The brain is able to do this easily for many sounds; consider the way that you block out the noise of a restaurant to listen to a conversation with a friend. TRT harnesses this natural ability, in order to reduce the effects of tinnitus.
If you’re experiencing tinnitus or other symptoms of hearing loss, call for a consultation to find out how we can help you. You can visit us at our Chicago area clinic, or we can schedule your appointment in your own home or residential facility for your convenience.