Tinnitus: A Treatable Condition
TINNITUS IS AN “auditory phantom of perception of sound.” In simple terms, that means it is ringing in the ears or the perception of sound that does not correspond to a source of noise. It is similar to the perception of pain or an itch in a lost limb. The discomfort of tinnitus is real.
Tinnitus is common, but not normal. Seventeen percent of people have it at different times. It is not a disease, but it is often a symptom. It indicates that something is amiss. There are numerous causes of tinnitus—earwax, diabetes, high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism, a tumor, anemia, allergy, ear disease, dental issues, stress, noise exposure, whiplash, loose hairs in the ears and others. Aspirin and alcohol can aggravate it.
Although many people who have tinnitus are not bothered by it, for other people it is distressing. Then, it requires expert attention and therapy. Tinnitus should always be evaluated and viewed holistically within in a team approach. The role of the audiologist is to help sort out the cause of the symptom and, when related to hearing, help to decrease the intensity or distract from the symptom.
Therapeutic intervention for tinnitus often includes a medical evaluation and an audiological evaluation conducted by a specialist trained in tinnitus rehabilitation. Once the cause of tinnitus is determined, treatment includes counseling and management techniques.
A simple technique to manage tinnitus is to stay in an environment with continuous background noise. When a person continuously hears noise, it may be louder than the ringing or phantom noise in the ears. Consider this analogy: In a dark room with one candle, the flame seems prominent. Yet if other room lights are switched on, the candle—which is still burning—is less noticeable. Likewise, in a quiet room, tinnitus becomes prominent. In a room with noise, the tinnitus remains, but it is more difficult to hear when other sounds block it. In this way, background noise provides relief.
Tinnitus is treatable. A recent study from the Better Hearing Institute (BHI) determined that of the 80,000 households interviewed, over 40% with Tinnitus showed a significant improvement as a result of wearing hearing aids. This is an encouraging study and provides hope for those with Tinnitus.
Help from an Audiologist
The training of an audiologist now requires an undergraduate degree, a subsequent four-year program, three years of studies, an internship and a year-long externship. An audiologist can help with tinnitus and a variety of other hearing disorders through hearing aids, listening strategies and management techniques.
Successful use of a hearing aid is best achieved through a proper fit, counseling and technology in a hearing aid that is selected specifically for an individual. Every person’s hearing loss is as unique as a fingerprint and responds differently to a hearing aid. An audiologist’s counseling skills and expertise address each client’s individual needs.
Dr. Judith Curtin of ABC Hearing Net is an AAA Board-certified audiologist and a certified Tinnitus Practitioner
ABC Hearing Net
Judith A. Curtin, AuD, CCC A/SLP. Dr. Curtin is an award winning and AAA Board Certified audiologist and a ASHA certified speech pathologist. She has practiced aural habilitation/re-habilitation audiology for more than 30 years. An innovator in her field, she was an early implementer of comprehensive, integrative audiology programs to help older adults get maximum benefit from hearing aids and develop listening strategies. She has been a faculty member at West Chester University since 2000.
Francis H. Curtin, BSEE. Mr. Curtin has more than 25 years of electronic and software engineering with extensive experience in specification, design and verification of electronic systems. He is a licensed hearing care specialist in the state of Pennsylvania. He helps clients with hearing aids and assistive listening devices.