Audiology & Speech Solutions

Tinnitus

What we  know and what we can do to help.

Audiology & Speech Solutions

Tinnitus

What we know and we can do to help.

What Causes Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a symptom associated with many forms of hearing loss. It can also be a symptom of other health problems. Roughly 25 million Americans have experienced tinnitus.In some cases it is so severe that it interferes with their daily activities. People with severe cases of tinnitus may find it difficult to hear, work, or even sleep.  But what causes tinnitus?

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Medicine

More than 200 medicines, including aspirin, can cause tinnitus. If you have tinnitus and you take medicine, ask your doctor or pharmacist whether your medicine could be involved.

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Loud Noise

Exposure to loud noise can cause permanent hearing loss and tinnitus. Continued exposure can make the tinnitus and hearing loss get worse.

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Hearing Loss

Most people who have tinnitus also have some kind of hearing loss.

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Other Potential Causes

Allergies, tumors, problems in the heart and blood vessels, jaws, and neck can cause tinnitus.

Tinnitus Treatment

Although there is no cure for tinnitus, hearing care professionals, scientists and doctors have discovered several treatments that may give you some relief. Not every treatment works for everyone, so you may need to try several to find the ones that help.

Hearing Aids

 Most people with tinnitus have some degree of hearing loss. Hearing aids create a dual benefit of enhancing hearing and masking or covering up the tinnitus. The majority of patients with tinnitus receive partial or complete relief from their tinnitus with the use of hearing aids.

Maskers

 Tinnitus maskers are small electronic devices that look like hearing aids and are tuned to generate sound that masks or covers up the tinnitus. They may provide relief from the tinnitus, but will not enhance hearing and may interfere with understanding speech. 

Drug Therapy

Some tinnitus sufferers develop anxiety and other strong emotional responses to their tinnitus. Certain medicines may provide relief from these emotional reactions and provide some relief from the tinnitus. Other medicines and nutritional supplements have provided relief in some patients.

Neuromonics Tinnitus Therapy

This treatment uses a combination of testing, counseling and specialized masking to help you to effectively manage and gradually reduce your response to the tinnitus. This treatment can take six months or more to complete but has the highest rate of success.

Counseling

People with tinnitus may experience anxiety, depression and other psychiatric problems. You may be referred to a psychiatrist or counselor as needed.

Relaxing

Learning how to relax is very helpful if the noise in your ears frustrates you. Stress makes tinnitus seem worse. By relaxing, you have a chance to rest and better deal with the sound.

Keeping Tinnitus From Getting Worse

Noise-induced hearing loss, the result of damage to the sensory hair cells of the inner ear, is one of the most common causes of tinnitus. Anything you can do to limit your exposure to loud noise—by moving away from the sound, turning down the volume, or wearing earplugs or earmuffs—will help prevent tinnitus or keep it from getting worse.

Tinnitus by the Numbers

Each year about 1 in 10 adults nationwide has an episode of tinnitus that lasts longer than 3 months.

Research into Tinnitus

Along the path a hearing signal travels to get from the inner ear to the brain, there are many places where things can go wrong to cause tinnitus. If scientists can understand what goes on in the brain to start tinnitus and cause it to persist, they can look for those places in the system where a therapeutic intervention could stop tinnitus in its tracks. 

Electrical or magnetic stimulation of brain areas involved in hearing

Implantable devices already exist to reduce the trembling of Parkinson’s disease and the anxieties of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Similar devices could be developed to normalize the neural circuits involved in tinnitus.

Resetting the tonotopic map

Researchers are exploring how to take advantage of the tonotopic map, which organizes neurons in the auditory cortex according to the frequency of the sound to which they respond. Previous research has shown a change in the organization of the tonotopic map after exposing the ear to intense noise. By understanding how these changes happen, researchers could develop techniques to bring the map back to normal and relieve tinnitus.

Hyperactivity and deep brain stimulation

Researchers have observed hyperactivity in neural networks after exposing the ear to intense noise. Understanding specifically where in the brain this hyperactivity begins and how it spreads to other areas could lead to treatments that use deep brain stimulation to calm the neural networks and reduce tinnitus.

Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS)

This technique, which uses a small device placed on the scalp to generate short magnetic pulses, is already being used to normalize electrical activity in the brains of people with epilepsy. Preliminary trials of rTMS in humans, funded by the NIDCD, are helping researchers pinpoint the best places in the brain to stimulate in order to suppress tinnitus.

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