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Tinnitus can be an annoying condition. According to statistics from the American Tinnitus Association, more than 50 million people in the United States suffer from tinnitus.

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus (pronounced tin-ni-tis or tin-eye-tis) is the perception of noise in the absence of an external sound source.   The sounds of tinnitus can be constant, intermittent, bilateral, unilateral, a single sound or a mix of many sounds.  There are two kinds of tinnitus, subjective and objective.

Subjective tinnitus: This is the most common type of tinnitus and can only be heard by the person experiencing tinnitus (a non-auditory, internal sound).  Subjective tinnitus can be caused by many different issues and can originate at any point within the auditory system. 

Objective tinnitus: This type of tinnitus is rare and can be heard during an examination.  This could be caused by blood vessel issues, muscle contractions, issues within the middle ear system. 

Causes and concerns

Tinnitus can be caused by a number of different factors, from something as simple as earwax buildup to head trauma. Common causes include:

  • Earwax or any blockage of the ear
  • Hearing loss of any type or severity
  • Trauma to the ear, jaw or neck (being hit with a hard object, car accident, fall)
  • Untreated and recurrent ear infections
  • Exposure to loud noise, including impulse noises (e.g. shooting guns, explosions, etc)
  • Side effects from certain medications
  • Vascular disorders

Symptoms and signs

There are several kinds of tinnitus that produce symptoms and signs. Subjective tinnitus is a type of tinnitus where the person can hear sounds, but no one else can hear the sound. Another type of tinnitus is called objective tinnitus and is very rare. With this type, the doctor can also hear the sound while listening closely. Objective tinnitus is often caused by a vascular or muscular

People describe tinnitus in different ways; some people hear a low-pitched hum, while others hear a high-pitched ringing. Other sounds that can be either high or low-pitched include:

  • Ringing
  • Buzzing
  • Cricket chirping
  • Whistling
  • Hissing
  • Crackling
  • Thumping
  • Music

Solutions and options

Tinnitus is not one of those conditions that can be treated at home. It is recommended that you see a physician specializing in ears and/or an audiologist to both evaluate and treat your tinnitus.. For many people, the cause of tinnitus is due to damage in the ear. In other cases, there is an underlying disease or condition that is causing it.

When you come into the office, Dr. Polcari and Dr. Gupta will take a complete medical history, as well as perform a physical exam of the ears, neck and head to make sure there are no obvious injuries or underlying medical issues.

Treatment for your tinnitus will depend on the condition that is causing it, the severity of the tinnitus, and the impact the tinnitus has on your daily activities. 

Tinnitus Management and Treatments can include:

  • Avoiding trigger or exacerbators including caffine intake, smoking, asperine use,
  • managing stress and/or depression
  • Sound therapy
  • Hearing aids
  • Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT)

Sound Therapy

A common treatment is acoustic therapy or sound therapy. Sound therapy makes use of sounds to help the brain re-focus and diminish the emotional impact of the tinnitus.  Like most treatment for tinnitus, sound therapy does not cure tinnitus, but instead help reduce the perception and intensity of tinnitus.

Sound therapy can help if a few different ways:

Masking: refers to the exposure of external noise at a volume which is loud enough to mix with or cover up the perceived tinnitus.

Distraction: Typically, the sounds of tinnitus is more perceivable when the individual focus’ on it.  Distraction refers to the practice of using the external noise to divert attention from the sound of the tinnitus, allowing an individual to move on and concentrate on other things.

Habituation: This is the practice of using sound therapy to help a person “reclassify” their tinnitus as an unimportant sound that they can ignore.

Noise machines are commonly used for sound management of tinnitus. 

Hearing aids

Hearing aids are a popular treatment option for tinnitus even if hearing loss isn’t present. Hearing aids don’t always have to be amplifiers of sound.  Most hearing aids today can be equipped with a tinnitus-masking feature to help individuals block out the noise and provide much-needed relief.  These can be used in collaboration of hearing loss treatment as well.

Signia’s Notch Therapy

Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT)

One treatment that incorporates sound therapy is called tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT), also known as habituation therapy. This therapy attempts to retrain your brain into perceiving the tinnitus in a different way. Typical behavioral therapy may also be included to help the individual cope with any emotional difficulties they’re experiencing, including depression, stress or anger.

  • Hearing aids: Hearing devices are incredibly helpful in treating tinnitus. Even if a hearing loss isn’t present, hearing aids can be equipped with tinnitus-masking features that help cover the tinnitus  and offer relief from the unwanted noise.
  • White noise machines: If your tinnitus isn’t as severe or only experienced at night time, a white noise machine may be ideal for helping you find relief. White noise machines produce a steady sound to help mask the tinnitus noises you hear.
  • Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT): TRT is a form of therapy designed to help individuals with tinnitus find relief. This therapy involves retraining your mind to block out and hear certain tones, which in turn, helps to ease the symptoms caused by tinnitus.

If you are suffering from tinnitus schedule an appointment with us today. We will work to identify the cause behind your tinnitus and recommend the appropriate treatment.