How an Audiologist Treats Tinnitus
Tinnitus is one of the most troublesome issues you can have with your hearing health. In many cases it is incurable, the root cause is impossible to find, and it can stay with you for your whole life. But even when you can’t find a cure, you may be able to find the treatment that helps you learn to live with it or lessen its impact. As the foremost experts on all things related to your hearing health, your audiologist might be one of the best allies you have in treating your tinnitus. But how do they do it?
Fitting a hearing aid
Hearing aids have shown a lot of success in treating tinnitus, especially tinnitus that is heard at a lower frequency. Audiologists can perform tinnitus-specific hearing tests to help you identify the pitch, tone, and frequency the sounds caused by your tinnitus. Hearing aids can help you amplify external sounds if tinnitus makes it harder to hear. Beyond improving your hearing, many patients have noted that hearing aids, especially bilateral options (one on each ear) can make tinnitus much less pronounced, allowing the user to habituate and get used to it.
There are also sound masking devices that your audiologist may be able to help you use. These devices are much like hearing aids, looking and fitting similarly in or behind the ear. Rather than amplifying the external sound to drown out the tinnitus, however, they combat it by producing their own sound. Using the hearing examination to better divine the pitch and frequency of your tinnitus, sound masking devices are tuned to create a matching sound to cancel it out. Success with sound masking is intermittent; with some patients saying it drowns out tinnitus entirely, while it is ineffective for others. There are also free-standing white noise machines an audiologist might suggest that can help you drown out your tinnitus when you’re trying to sleep. After all, sleep deprivation is a very common side effect for tinnitus sufferers.
Taking a closer look at your ear
Beyond providing the examination to learn more about the specific kind of tinnitus you’re fighting, an audiologist will also perform a physical examination. In some cases, though not too many, the root cause of tinnitus can be found. It may be a buildup of earwax, an infection or abscess in the ear, or even issues related to blood flow in the ear. Very rarely, finding and treating these root causes can eliminate tinnitus entirely, if not lessen its severity. Most people who suffer tinnitus do not find an underlying issue, so it’s important to keep expectations realistic. However, it’s still worth having the audiologist take a look simply for the chance they might find the cause.
Finding the right tinnitus treatment can take a long time, as the condition differs from person to person. Your audiologist is the most likely candidate when it comes to finding a treatment for you, but don’t give up if the first option doesn’t work. There are plenty more to try.