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Tinnitus: Ringing in Your Ears!

Tinnitus (ringing in your ears) refers to the perception of sound in the ear when no external sound is present.

There are two broad types of tinnitus:
  1. Middle-ear tinnitus is produced in the middle ear behind your eardrum.
  2. Sensorineural tinnitus is produced in the inner ear and possibly in your nervous system.
Tinnitus is often accompanied by hearing loss. Middle-ear tinnitus is rare and results from hearing your muscles twitch or hearing the sound of blood vessels. Middle-ear tinnitus may be medically or surgically treated. Sensorineural tinnitus has no proven medical or surgical therapy.

Tinnitus has many possible sources including noise exposure, the natural aging process, medications, head injury, ear diseases (such as Ménière's disease), allergies, and certain autoimmune, neurologic and psychiatric disorders.

See your audiologist to help you select the appropriate hearing protection for your personal needs. Noise-induced tinnitus can be prevented with hearing protection. For many, the underlying cause of tinnitus is unknown.

There is no known cure for tinnitus. However, research studies are being conducted to find a cure for tinnitus. Based on controlled research studies, there are no medications or dietary supplements that have been shown to effectively or consistently treat tinnitus. Hearing aids may help tinnitus three ways:
  1. By improving your hearing and reducing stress from having to listen very carefully.
  2. By amplifying background sound (which can help partially mask the tinnitus).
  3. By stimulating your hearing nerves.
Your audiologist can adjust your hearing aids to maximize benefits for hearing loss and/or tinnitus.

Your audiologist may offer you several devices specifically designed for tinnitus relief or management. For example, wearable noise generators that produce a low-level "sssshhhhhhhhh" sound, wearable music-generating devices that provide specially processed music adjusted for your hearing loss, and non-wearable sound-producing devices that produce a variety of sounds (e.g., ocean waves) whose level and quality can be adjusted. Consult your audiologist to determine which devices are the most helpful for your tinnitus.

There are several different counseling approaches to help people with their reactions to tinnitus. For example, Tinnitus Activities Treatment provides individualized counseling in four areas: overall emotional well-being, hearing, sleep, and concentration. Additionally, self-help books are available and are very useful.

If you think you may have tinnitus, click here to "Find an Audiologist" and set up an appointment to get your hearing checked.
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