Tinnitus is often described as a ringing in the ears but can also sound like hissing, buzzing, roaring, sizzling, clicking or other noises. Tinnitus can manifest as an acute symptom lasting just a few days or a chronic or recurring symptom lasting weeks, months or years.
Tinnitus is a symptom of a wide range of health conditions, and it can occasionally point to a more serious problem that needs professional medical attention. That is why trying to identify a cause is essential.
During a tinnitus evaluation, an audiologist will typically administer:
- An in-depth review of your medical history
- A pure tone audiometry test
- Speech reception and word recognition tests
If you’re one of the five percent of Americans suffering from tinnitus that is “moderately to significantly annoying,” it’s a great idea to visit an audiologist for an evaluation. Our team is equipped with many tools and strategies to help patients with tinnitus, but we need to first assess your condition.
What to Expect During an Evaluation
When evaluating a patient with tinnitus, we have several goals we hope to accomplish:
- Identify the underlying cause of your tinnitus symptoms
- Evaluate how your tinnitus is affecting your ability to understand speech
One of the goals of an evaluation is to rule out what is not causing your tinnitus symptoms. Some common causes include hearing loss, inner ear disorders, blood pressure changes due to an underlying condition and even certain medications.
In cases where we can identify the cause of the tinnitus, we may also be able to treat that condition and relieve your symptoms. If we can’t identify a specific cause of your tinnitus, we will recommend other management options that can help you better manage and reduce your tinnitus symptoms.
There is no universal cure for tinnitus, but treatments can help make it less of a distraction. Because tinnitus is a side effect of an underlying condition, identifying the problem may lead to a medical or surgical solution.
In cases where we cannot find the exact cause of tinnitus, you can often manage symptoms successfully through several different strategies.
I feel so fortunate to work at St. Cloud ENT. My co-workers are people I enjoy being with. As an independent clinic we can make changes quickly, ensuring our patient care is driven by the most current research and technology.– Brooke Steckelberg
Acoustic therapy is the use of sound with the intent to alter the tinnitus perception and reactions for clinical benefit. Often, sounds are used to cover up, or mask, tinnitus. Electronic devices that produce white noise, air conditioners, fans and soft music can all be employed.
You can employ a range of sound therapy options, including audio files, sleep noise generators, tinnitus-specific earbuds and more. These acoustic therapy methods help to habituate a tinnitus sufferer to their symptoms by reducing the contrast between the tonal sounds they hear and their environment. This allows the brain to blend and mask tinnitus sounds with natural and therapy added environmental noises.
A standard treatment option utilizes hearing aids, as nearly 90% of those with tinnitus also experience hearing loss. Hearing aids are used to amplify background sounds, which can mask tinnitus. These devices can also help you distinguish one sound from another, improving communication and helping with focus and concentration difficulties. Many hearing aids come packaged with noise generators to replace ambient sounds if amplification alone does not reduce tinnitus.
Counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be practical in helping you manage your tinnitus symptoms by reducing the stress, anxiety and sleeplessness that are often associated with tinnitus.
Behavioral therapy can be effective and provide a range of coping skills to help you manage tinnitus symptoms and the associated stress and depression that often accompany the condition.
Call St. Cloud Ear, Nose & Throat for more information or to schedule an appointment. (320) 252-0233