Hearing loss is a condition that everyone knows about, but there are many
Tinnitus is more than just ringing in the ears. The ever-present noise has been described as whirring, buzzing, and clicking as well as ringing. If you are lucky, tinnitus is just a temporary condition caused by an ear infection, blood pressure that’s too high or taking too many aspirin tablets. Unfortunately, tinnitus is often a chronic condition that destroys quality of life. There’s no reason to suffer from tinnitus. Audiologists have many treatment options available to treat tinnitus.
White noise devices
White noise devices work by distraction. A gentle low noise distracts the brain’s focus from the noise that isn’t there to the noise that is there. These external “white” noises mask or hide the internal tinnitus sounds. The brain is so busy processing the white noise signals it doesn’t have the bandwidth for the tinnitus sounds.
These white noise devices come in many different sizes and configurations. Some units are small enough to place on top of a coffee table or can be set on a bedside table to help at bedtime. There are tiny highly sophisticated units that look and wear just like hearing aids.
The simplest white noise device is a fan. A little fan may be all you need to create just enough white noise to help you fall asleep at night.
Sound therapy can take some time to work, but for many people it is effective in managing tinnitus. It doesn’t make the tinnitus go away, but it does lower the volume of your tinnitus. Special sound therapy devices use music and other sounds customized to the individual. The device plays special notched-music or algorithmically-modified sounds that emphasize specific frequencies and tones. These devices are used intermittently and work best for people with tinnitus in the 1-13kHz range.
Biofeedback and neurofeedback
Tinnitus is also successfully managed with biofeedback and neurofeedback. These treatments require a high degree of motivation to be successful. They also require a considerable amount of time and money. Treatment sessions generally last an hour and at least 15 sessions are necessary before you see results. These methods use intense counseling to take control of tinnitus. Tinnitus can be stressful, and these methods also address the stress as well as the tinnitus.
Almost 80% of people with tinnitus have hearing loss. Because hearing loss is usually gradual, the individual doesn’t realize the hearing is going until the tinnitus noise increases to uncomfortable levels. As hearing ability is lost, the amount of stimulation to the brain is decreased. This loss of stimulation causes the brain to change how it processes sound. With fewer signals coming in, the brain busies itself creating signals to process. Tinnitus is the result.
Hearing aids don’t restore hearing, but they do amplify sounds from the environment. The amplification results in more signals being sent to the brain. With the brain busy with real sound, it doesn’t have time for phantom noises. In addition, the hearing aids increase the amount of background noise you hear. This background noise works like white noise to mask the tinnitus as well. Wearing hearing aids decreases stress from not being able to follow conversation. Stress-related tinnitus is reduced by wearing hearing aids.