This year, do something for you – resolve to finally treat the ringing in your ear. Tinnitus is the sensation of hearing a buzzing, ringing, hissing, chirping or whistling in the ear. Even though tinnitus is common – the American Tinnitus Institute estimates that more than 45 million Americans experience the condition – many choose not to seek treatment.
Below is a list of steps for treating your tinnitus.
Step One: Diagnosis
Before your audiologist can create a customized treatment plan, your tinnitus must be diagnosed. This includes:
- Physical exam
- Hearing test
- Imaging (MRI or CT scan)
Step Two: Determine the Cause
Once your doctor has confirmed you are experiencing tinnitus, they will try to determine the cause. A variety of conditions and illnesses include tinnitus as a common symptom, including:
- A buildup of earwax
- Certain drugs (aspirin and some antibiotics)
- Natural aging process
- Meniere’s disease, an inner ear disorder
- High blood pressure
- Neck or jaw problems
- Head and neck injuries
- Prolonged exposure to loud sounds
Step Three: Create a Treatment Plan
While some of these causes, such as taking a certain medication or a buildup of earwax, can be treated, many cannot. Because of this, tinnitus treatment is focused on managing symptoms, rather than eliminating the noise.
Nearly 90 percent of those with tinnitus also experience hearing loss. Simply turning up the volume on the hearing aids you already own can help drown out the tinnitus.
Similar to hearing aids, masking devices sit in the ear and work by playing a pleasant tone to cover up the tinnitus.
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT)
TRT focuses on your brain’s ability to habituate, or filter out, sounds on a subconscious level so they do not reach conscious perception. Background sounds are deemed unimportant by your brain, such as a computer fan or the hum of a refrigerator, and they are not perceived as loud. Your brain is screening the sounds out.
There are two versions of therapy. The patient can play a neutral sound everywhere they go or they can receive one-on-one counseling to train their brain.
Counselors can help you modify your reaction to tinnitus. When combined with other therapies, such as masking devices, this treatment is quite effective.
While there is no research validating vitamin supplements or alternative therapies as effective tinnitus treatments, many find that including ginkgo biloba, zinc and magnesium in their diets can be helpful. Acupuncture, meditation, magnets and even hypnosis are also used to varying degrees of success.
The tinnitus treatment that is right for you is out there. Now is the time to find it. Contact San Diego ENT today.