Over 25 million Americans (approximately 10 percent of the U.S. adult population) experience some form of tinnitus. Tinnitus is commonly referred to as “ringing in the ears” but can also be perceived as buzzing, hissing, crickets, swooshing, or other sounds when no external sound is present. The severity of tinnitus can range from non-bothersome to debilitating.
Tinnitus can occur for many reasons, including:
- Hearing loss
- Head and neck trauma
- Noise exposure
- Impacted ear wax
- Side effects from medications
Research shows that as many as 80% of patients with tinnitus symptoms may also have some degree of hearing loss. While there is no “cure” for tinnitus, many solutions exist to make it more tolerable. Since tinnitus is often associated with hearing loss, a hearing evaluation should be one of the first steps in the tinnitus process. Many people with tinnitus don’t realize that they also have hearing loss, yet when identified and treated with hearing aids, they receive both a reduction in tinnitus perception and improved hearing. Together these can have a significant impact on quality of life.
Other tools, like noise generators, sound pillows, and tinnitus apps, can help cope with tinnitus. Tinnitus is generally most bothersome to people when they are in quiet environments. These noise generating tools help mask the tinnitus and give a distraction to divert attention from the sound of the tinnitus. These help with habituation: helping the brain to reclassify tinnitus as an unimportant sound that can and should be consciously ignored. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can also be a helpful tool for people with very bothersome tinnitus.
At Columbus Speech & Hearing, we offer audiologic and tinnitus evaluations as well as hearing aids and tinnitus masker options. We can help create a treatment plan that is custom for you!