What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a common medical condition characterized by persistent sound in one or both ears. Those affected by tinnitus may described the sound as ringing, buzzing, or whistling. For some, tinnitus is an occasional, but for others it is a constant part of their daily lives.
During a tinnitus evaluation, an audiologist will typically administer:
- An in-depth review of your medical history
- A complete physical examination of your auditory system
- A pure tone audiometry test
- Speech reception and word recognition tests
- An otoacoustic emissions test
- Additional tests, studies and evaluations
If you’re one of the five percent of Americans suffering from tinnitus that is “moderately to significantly annoying,” it’s a great idea to visit a hearing specialist for an evaluation. Our team of audiologists is equipped with many tools and strategies to help patients with tinnitus, but we need first to assess your condition.
The American Tinnitus Association estimates that more than 50 million Americans experience occasional episodes of tinnitus.
What Causes Tinnitus?
There are several things that can cause tinnitus, but the most common cause is hazardous noise exposure. Noise exposure over a period of time can cause auditory damage and hearing loss. Tinnitus is a common symptom of auditory damage and hearing loss. Other possible causes include certain medications, head trauma, diet, and stress.
What to Expect During an Evaluation
When evaluating a patient with tinnitus, we have several goals we hope to accomplish:
- Identify the underlying cause of your tinnitus symptoms
- Determine if your tinnitus is subjective or objective
- Evaluate how your tinnitus is affecting your ability to understand speech
One of the goals of an evaluation is to rule out what is not causing your tinnitus symptoms. Some common causes include hearing loss, ear bone changes, inner ear disorders, blood pressure changes due to an underlying condition and even certain medications.
Hearing Assessments for Tinnitus
Audiometric evaluations for tinnitus typically focus on high-frequency sounds between 2000 and 4000 Hz. An otoacoustic emissions test can provide a strong indicator for tinnitus as studies have found emissions can be diminished in those with tinnitus and hearing loss.
Questionnaires your provider may have you take include:
- Tinnitus functional index
- Tinnitus handicap inventory
- Tinnitus and hearing survey
Because tinnitus can be challenging to characterize, questionnaires can help to identify causes that a patient may not have considered. The Tinnitus Functional Index is designed to identify the impact of tinnitus on areas from sleep to the ability to relax. The Tinnitus Handicap Inventory can help determine the perceived impact tinnitus has on a patient’s daily life.
Is there a Cure?
Not yet. Tinnitus research is ongoing in pursuit of a better understanding and a cure for the ailment; but currently, there is no cure.
Treatment Options for Tinnitus
If tinnitus is an ailment you or your loved one is experiencing, we will ask you to complete a tinnitus questionnaire and potentially add additional testing to your hearing evaluation to determine the frequency and loudness of your tinnitus. This will provide Dr. Golliher with the information she needs create a treatment plan that will reduce the severity of your tinnitus.
Tinnitus treatment often includes environmental modification, Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, and/or amplification or masking devices.
Call Acro Audiology Hearing Care Center at (210) 239-5995 for more information or to schedule an appointment.