Tinnitus is the sensation of hearing sounds that are not present in the external environment, often characterized as a ringing, buzzing, chirping, whooshing, sizzling, clicking or whistling in the ears. Over 50 million Americans report some degree of tinnitus. About 1 in 20 people suffer from tinnitus that is moderately to significantly annoying, and 1 in every 100 experience tinnitus that is debilitating.
Tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease. Often the exact cause is not known. Potential causes include:
While there is no known cure for tinnitus, there are ways to manage the symptoms. The Heuser Hearing Clinic’s
audiology team is here to help.
Tinnitus can manifest as an acute symptom, lasting just a few days, or a chronic or recurring symptom, lasting for weeks, months, years or even a lifetime. If you’re one of the five percent of Kentucky residents suffering from tinnitus that is moderately to significantly annoying, we recommend visiting one of Heuser Hearing Clinic’s Louisville tinnitus specialists for an evaluation. Our team of audiologists
and otologists is equipped with many tools and strategies to help patients with tinnitus, but first we need to assess your condition.
GOALS OF TINNITUS TESTS
There are several goals we hope to accomplish when we evaluate a patient’s tinnitus:
- Identify the underlying cause of your tinnitus symptoms.
- Determine if your tinnitus is subjective (experienced only by you) or objective (detectable to your audiologist).
- Evaluate how your tinnitus is affecting your speech perception.
- Assess whether you’re experiencing hyperacusis (sound sensitivity).
- Pinpoint the frequency and loudness of the sound you’re hearing.
Tinnitus is a symptom of a wide range of health conditions and it can occasionally point to a more serious problem
that needs professional medical attention. Subjective tinnitus is much more common and is often caused by
ototoxic (ear-damaging) medications or one of many audiological, neurological, metabolic or psychological
conditions. Objective tinnitus is much more rare and is often tied to underlying vascular or neurological problems.
If we can determine a diagnosis and address the condition causing your tinnitus, we may also be able to treat that
condition and relieve your symptoms. If we can’t identify a specific cause of your tinnitus, we will recommend
other treatment options or a symptom-management plan.
TINNITUS TEST: STEP-BY-STEP
During a tinnitus evaluation at one of our Louisville tinnitus and hearing loss clinics, an audiologist may administer:
- An in-depth written and verbal interview.
- A complete physical examination of your auditory system.
- A pure-tone and ultra-high frequency audiometry test.
- Speech reception and word recognition tests.
- An otoacoustic emissions test.
- Additional tests, studies and evaluations as needed.
Managing Your Tinnitus
Although there is no cure for tinnitus, there are ways to manage the symptoms and regain control. Habituation Retraining Therapy (HaRT™), only available through Tinnitus Network providers like Heuser Hearing Institute, offers a multidisciplinary approach to your tinnitus treatment. Clinicians work hard to provide you with an individualized plan, incorporating a number of different treatment concepts such as sound therapy and counseling.
HaRT Tinnitus Treatment Program
Compassionate, expert clinical care is the foundation of the HaRT treatment approach. HaRT is a comprehensive, clinician-guided tinnitus treatment program which includes three core components:
Expert tinnitus education
Proper use of sound therapy
Regular interactions with a tinnitus expert audiologist
Tinnitus Network clinicians are able to provide you with a wide variety of services, such as screening and assessment for tinnitus and hearing loss, counseling and education sessions, sound therapy device customization and instruction for use, development of clinical milestones and treatment monitoring throughout the treatment process.
- Expert tinnitus education and information. It is important for you to receive thorough, accurate and individualized information about tinnitus, its physiological and perceptual components and the process of habituation. Counseling and education sessions explain the facts about tinnitus and how care is provided to give relief and guide you through the process of achieving short-term and long-term benefit.
- Proper use of sound therapy. Correct integration of a sound therapy device into daily life is critical. The HaRT program helps you learn new skills, enjoy passive listening and understand how relief occurs. Guidance on the correct usage of the device along with a detailed explanation of the basic milestones of progress with sound therapy helps gives you confidence in the treatment.
- Regular interaction with a tinnitus expert audiologist. The HaRT program offers regular interactions between you and your clinician as needed during treatment, in order to ensure you receive the best possible outcome. This is both proactive, with the audiologist regularly reaching out and connecting with you, and reactive, where the audiologist is available to you for any questions or issues you might have at any time.
I HEAR A NOISE IN MY EARS BUT IT DOESN’T SOUND LIKE RINGING. IS IT TINNITUS?
Tinnitus typically manifests as a ringing in the ears but patients report hearing many other sounds as well. Buzzing, whistling, whooshing, roaring, sizzling, hissing, clicking and chirping are all common. If you’re hearing any type of sound in your ears, you should visit an audiologist for further diagnostic testing.
WHAT CAUSES TINNITUS?
Tinnitus is a symptom rather than a condition and can be caused by a number of conditions. Unfortunately, the cause of a patient’s tinnitus is often never identified. Known causes of tinnitus include hearing loss, noise exposure, Meniere’s disease, head or neck injury, TMJ disorder, hypertension, stress, migraines, excessive earwax, ototoxic medications and acoustic neuromas.
IF YOU CAN’T FIND A CAUSE FOR MY TINNITUS, WHY SHOULD I GET AN ASSESSMENT?
It’s important to see a doctor if you’re experiencing tinnitus as it can indicate a more serious health problem. Although we may not be able to find the cause, going through the process to ensure you’re not damaging your hearing with ototoxic medication or experiencing a health condition is a good idea. Additionally, an assessment can help us determine what treatment options will work for you.
CAN OTHER PEOPLE OR MY AUDIOLOGIST HEAR MY TINNITUS?
In very rare cases, tinnitus is detectable to others. This is called objective tinnitus, which accounts for less than 1 percent of all cases. It’s much more likely that you’re suffering from subjective symptoms, meaning only you can hear the sounds. Through a tinnitus assessment, we can determine the volume and pitch of the sounds you are hearing.
I USED TO EXPERIENCE TINNITUS EVERY ONCE AND A WHILE BUT IT’S BECOMING MORE FREQUENT. WHAT SHOULD I DO?
Tinnitus can worsen over time, especially when it’s caused by an underlying condition that remains untreated. We recommend that anyone experiencing tinnitus see an otologist or audiologist for a tinnitus test. Even if you don’t feel like you need treatment, it’s important to try to establish a cause.
WHAT ARE THE TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR TINNITUS?
If the condition causing your tinnitus is treatable, addressing that underlying cause may eliminate tinnitus symptoms. In many cases, we aren’t able to cure tinnitus. There are many treatment options that help patients learn to manage their symptoms and even retrain the brain to ignore the annoying sound. Tinnitus retraining therapy and sound therapy programs have proven highly effective in symptom management.