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Tips for dealing with tinnitus

hand and ear

It is estimated that no less than 50 million Americans, which is around 15% of the adult population, experience some form of tinnitus. This is no small number. And further from this 20 million have chronic tinnitus. 

But what exactly is tinnitus? 

Tinnitus is the awareness of a sound that is heard in the ears or head, that doesn't come from an outside source. There are no external noise factors. Tinnitus is often associated with hearing loss. However, there are many other things that can contribute to a person experiencing tinnitus. Interestingly 50% of people who live with tinnitus have no hearing loss, and there are other contributing factors. 

If you are experiencing tinnitus, you should consult with an ENT doctor at the earliest available time. 

Treatment possibilities

There are no one-size-fits-all treatment options for tinnitus, but there are a number of things you can consider trying. 

Hearing aids

Due to the fact that hearing loss can be a frequent contributor to tinnitus, hearing aids are often prescribed to people experiencing tinnitus. Hearing loss is usually a gradual process, and many people are surprised to find out how much hearing has been reduced. It is often the case that tinnitus is related to sound deprivation, in this case – hearing loss. Bilateral hearing aids have shown to be beneficial for people who have tinnitus this helps with overall hearing too. 

Sound therapy

This is a much broader term that covers a range of products and treatments and therapies. The use of external sound is used to change a person's reaction and perception of tinnitus. These sounds do not cure tinnitus. However, they are shown to significantly reduce the intensity in which a person might register their tinnitus. 

  • Habituation: This treatment helps the patient's brain to reclassify the tinnitus as unimportant, and indeed actively ignored
  • Distraction: Using external sounds to cover the sound of the tinnitus
  • Neuromodulation: Introducing a specialized sound to minimize the neural hyperactivity that may be an underlying factor in tinnitus
  • Masking: Exposing a patient to external noise at a reasonably loud volume in order to partially or totally cover the tinnitus sound. 

Sound masking

Typically, this will be a machine that provides background noise. This will likely be pink noise, white noise, ambient sounds or sounds of nature. They offer temporary relaxation from the tinnitus and can fully or partially mask the tinnitus. 

There is also the possibility to use electrical fans, small running water fountains, and background music. Things that generally elicit a positive response in the patient. 

Notched-music devices

While you can use some at home masking devices, there is likely more benefits to be had when working with your ENT doctor and using a notched-music device during defined therapy sessions. And while the masking machines work during use, the modified sound/notched-music equipment may give a longer-term alleviation. 

These devices often play tones and frequencies that are not at a consciously perceivable by the listener. To get the best results, education, counselling, a sound machine and an ENT doctor will make the best team. 

Lifestyle

A person's lifestyle can be a significant contributing factor to the tinnitus. An ENT doctor will likely talk yours through your lifestyle and where there can be improvements made. Here are several factors that may be considered:

Medication: There are some occasions where medication may be the cause of the tinnitus. If this is the case, your general doctor and ENT doctor can look at replacement options or the possibility of reducing the drug. 

Earwax: There may be undiagnosed impacted earwax or an earwax build-up that is increasing the experience of tinnitus. This can be removed, and the patient may see some improvement. 

Smoking: The nicotine in cigarettes interferes with the transmitters in the auditory nerve. The auditory nerve tells your brain which sounds you are hearing. Smoking typically irritates the lining and Eustachian tube. Reducing or stopping will be the best course of action. 

Stress: Stress is a regular contributor to a number of health issues, and stress management practices through biofeedback or relaxation therapies can help manage stress levels. 

Summary

There are many options when it comes to people who have tinnitus. And, when working closely with an ENT doctor, trialing a combination of the tips above a positive outcome is likely. Making some minor lifestyle adjustments, being diligent with masking machines and keeping known irritants at bay will help too. In fact, introducing a daily walk or yoga can make an impact too. 

To learn more about Golla ENT call at 412-963-1537.