Tinnitus, also known as ringing in the ears, is a medical term that describes the perception of hearing sounds in one or both ears when no sound is present. Although tinnitus can vary from person to person, it is commonly described as a ringing, roaring, buzzing, hissing, or whooshing sound. The sound may seem to come from one or both ears, from inside the head, or from a distance. It may be constant or intermittent, steady or pulsating and can be a temporary or chronic condition. Although there are many causes of tinnitus, it is most commonly associated with damage of the microscopic sensory hair cells that exists in the cochlea of the inner ear. Some risk factors for tinnitus include:
While there is much debate to the origin of tinnitus, most researchers agree it relates to an overall dysfunction between the brain and the ear(s) when the hearing system is no longer functioning normally. Tinnitus is believed to be a pathology involving neuroplastic changes in central auditory structures that take place when the brain is deprived of its normal input due to a pathology in the cochlea of the inner ear. Tinnitus affects over 50 million people in the US and 90% of those people suffering from tinnitus have hearing loss. While there is currently no cure for tinnitus, many treatment options exist to reduce or hide the perception of one’s tinnitus. Some of the most widely used treatment options for tinnitus include:
maskers (aka sound-based relief)
sound therapy (e.g. music or other common household items such as a fan to provide background noise)
tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT)
cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
For milder to more moderate cases of tinnitus, modern hearing aids and/or maskers are very effective at concealing the underlining sound and providing relief for patients. Sound therapy has also been proven to be effective at reducing the perception of one’s tinnitus.For patients with more severe to profound tinnitus, tinnitus retraining therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or a combination of the previously mentioned treatment options may be a chosen as a treatment option. To learn more about tinnitus treatment options available for you or a loved one call our office today at 360-479-4065.