Descriptions of tinnitus usually include ringing, buzzing, hissing, and humming sounds that come and go frequently or are ongoing. Though not always the case, hearing loss and tinnitus often go hand-in-hand, with close to 80% of those who experience tinnitus symptoms also having hearing loss. 

There are a plethora of scams asserting to “cure tinnitus,” which take advantage of those who are desperate for a solution, but there are also legitimate techniques available to manage the condition. 

As Los Angeles most trusted hearing care experts, we receive countless questions about tinnitus and how it develops. Whether you’ve been living with it your whole life, or you’ve only just recently discovered the ringing in your ears, we are here to help.

Through a better understanding of tinnitus and how to manage it, we hope to help people find the solutions they seek without being taken in by scams.

Firstly…

About Tinnitus

Estimates of the number of individuals affected by tinnitus worldwide range between 10% and 15% of adults, making it a leader among the most common adverse health conditions globally. 

Tinnitus does not follow set rules. The condition may be constant or come and go with varying frequencies. The type and intensity of the noise each person hears can vary from one to the next. Additionally, the tones heard can also vary from high-pitched, deep, low-pitched, or even a tone that changes pitches. 

Essentially, the condition rarely presents in the same way for every individual. Regardless of age or background, tinnitus can become a debilitating issue capable of causing extreme stress and reducing your capacity to sleep or concentrate on important tasks. 

These factors, along with the lack of a cure for the condition, make tinnitus management a significant challenge.

What Causes Tinnitus?

The Central Gain Theory is the most widely accepted explanation behind what causes the ‘non-existent sounds’ to appear in the heads of individuals with tinnitus. 

The theory argues that when the brain is no longer processing certain sounds, it compensates by recreating the sound to fill in the gap. 

This “phantom” sound is similar to the “phantom limb” condition experienced by amputees. The theory also explains why tinnitus and hearing loss track together. The underlying causes that contribute to reduced sound processing capacity typically include:

  • Exposure to loud noise from music, gunshots, explosions, construction equipment, or machinery
  • Ototoxic medications sometimes produce tinnitus as a side effect or contribute to hearing loss
  • Age-related deterioration of nerve fibers in the inner ear contributes to both sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus
  • Earwax blockage can be a cause
  • Injuries to the ears, neck, or head
  • Neurological disorders
  • Middle ear bone degeneration
  • Upper respiratory infections or TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder can also cause tinnitus.

How Is Tinnitus Managed?

Different tinnitus management types target a specific cause or symptom associated with the condition to help provide relief. Not every technique will produce results in every patient, so those experiencing tinnitus often have to try out several methods before finding those capable of managing their unique condition, which includes a variety of management approaches within three main treatment categories, including:  

  • Stress and Anxiety Management. Because stress and anxiety complicate and add to increased sound sensitivity in tinnitus, one tinnitus management technique seeks to limit their effect through exercise, counseling, medication, coping tactics, improving sleep, eliminating smoking, and altering other lifestyle habits.
  • Masking. Masking covers up the internal sounds of tinnitus by using external sounds. However, if some tinnitus sound does not remain so that individuals learn to lessen perception and acclimate through habituation, masking can worsen the condition.
  • Hearing Aids. The dual effect of correcting hearing loss issues and reducing the effect of tinnitus results from hearing aids. Connectivity options with modern hearing aid technology allow users to use stress management and masking techniques integrated into their hearing aids.
  • Tinnitus Retraining Therapy is putting in a low-level masking sound that is slightly softer than the patient’s tinnitus. Thus, the patient hears their tinnitus as well as the masker. The premise is that if you have a constant masking sound, the brain will eventually tune out the tinnitus and constant masking sound just like you tune out an air conditioner, a grandfather clock ticking, traffic, etc. that is constantly present in the background. Your brain adapts and habituates to tinnitus.
  • Notch Filter Therapy is when you use a hearing aid/masker, and eliminate sound to the area where the patient hears their tinnitus. A few patients find that putting sounds in their ears makes the tinnitus worse. So, we eliminate sound in the region of their tinnitus and mask/stimulate the other regions.  
  • In conjunction with all treatments, we use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to allow the patient to better manage their reaction to tinnitus. 

Supporting Those In Los Angeles To Manage Their Tinnitus

There is no cure for tinnitus, and not all management techniques work for every person. Taking control of tinnitus is a battle to which individuals often have to commit multiple resources. 

Pacific Hearing has the expertise and equipment to help manage your tinnitus, but above those tangible items, our team is committed to providing the support and encouragement necessary to help you overcome the condition. 

If you or a loved one struggles with tinnitus, contact us with your questions and concerns or to schedule a tinnitus assessment.

 

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Gregory Frazer, PhD, AuD, CCC-A, ABA, NBC-HIS

Dr. Gregory Frazer entered private practice Audiology and Hearing Aid Dispensing in 1982. For 14 years he owned and operated Hearing Care Associates, which had 23 offices and was one of the largest audiology private practices in the U.S. Dr. Frazer is a well-known clinician and teacher and was the first audiologist to obtain dual doctorates in Audiology, both a PhD. in Audiology as well as the new Clinical Doctorate of Audiology, the AuD. He is Board Certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, American Academy of Audiology, and the National Certification in Hearing Instrument Sciences. Dr. Frazer specializes in the evaluation and treatment of vertigo, dizziness, and hearing and balance disorders. Dr. Frazer is experienced in working with infants, children, and adults. He is semi-fluent in Spanish and Sign Language.