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What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a problem with the auditory system that causes impairments with hearing. Common symptoms of tinnitus include buzzing, ringing, or roaring sounds in the inner ear. Most tinnitus sufferers develop their symptoms because of age-related hearing loss, reaction to a medication, exposure to loud noise, earwax buildup, and ear bone changes in the otosclerosis (middle ear).
There are two types of tinnitus: subjective tinnitus and objective tinnitus. Of the two, subjective tinnitus is the most common, and is where the tinnitus sound is only perceptible to the person suffering from the tinnitus itself. On the other hand, objective tinnitus is audible to others and can be detected by a stethoscope. A common example of this is pulsatile tinnitus. In this case, the tinnitus patient may report hearing a rhythmic sound similar to a heartbeat, that can be picked up during a hearing test.
While there is still no known medication that can eliminate tinnitus, or an outright tinnitus cure, there are a number of alternative therapies and treatment options that help mask the sound of tinnitus and make the symptoms easier to manage. A foolproof way to ensure that you do not develop tinnitus is to avoid risk factors that may make you more susceptible to developing tinnitus symptoms. Key among these include avoiding exposure to loud noise, as this is the most common cause of tinnitus. Other tinnitus treatment includes biofeedback and stress management, cognitive behavioral therapy, tinnitus maskers, tinnitus sound therapy, and hearing aids.
1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT.)
Tinnitus patients are also likely to suffer a great deal of emotional and mental stress. Because of this stress, they are likely to develop feelings of anxiety, depression, and insomnia. To manage these symptoms, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of talk therapy that equips tinnitus patients with the tools that they need to process and accept their tinnitus symptoms. Behavior therapy is an effective treatment for tinnitus as it improves the tinnitus sufferer’s quality of life by helping them manage the irritations associated with tinnitus. With the help of a counselor or therapist, the patient can identify and correct negative or self-defeating thought patterns, and regain the confidence that tinnitus often robs of it’s sufferers.
Masking devices provide a relaxing ambient sound that helps minimize the sound of tinnitus. An electronic sound-masking device is fitted in the patient’s ear. This device plays white noise, and other relaxing sounds to a level that can either drown out the perception of tinnitus altogether or slightly reduce the loudness of the tinnitus sound. Additional to this fitted sound masking device, one can also use a fan, music, or headphones to drown out the perception of tinnitus, and reduce the hiss within the auditory system.
3. Hearing Aids.
Tinnitus is a symptom of hearing loss, and most tinnitus patients suffer from a certain level of hearing loss. When a patient loses their hearing, a section of their brain alters how they perceive sound frequencies. According to a 2007 survey conducted by The Hearing Review, approximately 60 percent of tinnitus patients experienced some relief from the perception of the tinnitus sound when audiologists prescribed them with hearing aids. A hearing aid is an assistive hearing device whose constituent parts include a sound amplifier, a speaker, and a microphone. These consummate parts work to amplify external sound by increasing the volume of ambient noise.
4. Alternative treatments.
As mentioned before, there is still no FDA-approved cure for the treatment of tinnitus. However, holistic approaches such as hypnosis, relaxation techniques, and acupuncture have been found to have a notable effect in managing the symptoms of tinnitus.
While these studies have proven to be effective in the management of tinnitus symptoms, consult your audiologist before settling on a particular course of tinnitus treatment. Depending on the severity of your tinnitus, you may need specialized care that only a certified audiologist can provide.