News | Published September 11, 2014 | Written by Leslie Purcell, AuD, audiology, Mount Nittany Physician Group

You are not alone—tinnitus is a common and manageable problem

If you have ringing in the ears, you are not alone. At least one in 10 people experience this problem. Besides ringing, people can also aurally perceive chirping, hissing, buzzing, or roaring. The name for this persistent condition is tinnitus. My patients will tell you that it can be very, very annoying. But, there is hope.

If you suspect you have tinnitus, make an appointment with an audiologist for an examination as soon as possible. The purpose of the exam is to determine if there is a treatable medical condition causing the tinnitus. Some possible issues include jaw misalignment (TMJ syndrome), wax build-up, and hearing loss.

Some people with hearing loss experience tinnitus relief while wearing hearing aids.  That’s why it is so important to check your hearing first. If a patient has a hearing loss in the frequency range of the tinnitus, hearing aids may bring back in the ambient sounds that naturally cover the tinnitus.

If you have tinnitus you certainly do not want to aggravate it, so be aware that certain things should be avoided. Loud noise, which is often what caused the tinnitus in the first place, can make the present condition worse. Also, some substances can have a negative effect such as aspirin, caffeine, nicotine, quinine, and some antibiotics and medications.

If a properly functioning hearing aid does not help reduce tinnitus, there are also some alternative therapies. Sound therapy uses the strategy of “covering” the tinnitus. This involves either a wearable or non-wearable device. Some people refer to this covering of sound as masking. Sound therapies should always be combined with counseling.

Counseling is not often thought of when talking about hearing issues, but there is a great benefit in learning how our minds deal with the tinnitus. A counselor will help the patient identify negative behaviors and thought patterns, then help the patient to alter them.