According to the American Tinnitus Association (ATA), tinnitus affects approximately 50 million Americans to some degree, usually as a sound that only you can hear. People often describe their tinnitus as buzzing, ringing, white noise, crickets chirping and/or a roaring sound. Although these descriptions are typical, each individual’s experience can be different, and is an important clue that you need to pay attention to your hearing.
Is Tinnitus Related to Hearing Loss?
“Your ears aren’t supposed to ring,” explained Tim Steele, Ph.D., FAAA, president, Associated Audiologists. “If they do, your body, specifically your ears and brain, are trying to tell you something, and you should listen to it.”
In fact, according to research published in the American Journal of Medicine, 90 percent of individuals with tinnitus also have hearing loss. Many times, the tinnitus and hearing loss are caused by damage to the nerve cells within the inner ear. This damage can occur from a number of sources, including exposure to excessively loud sounds, health conditions like diabetes, and medications that damage the ear. Tinnitus also can be caused by impacted ear wax. In very rare cases, underlying medical conditions may cause tinnitus.
Hearing Aids Can Help Reduce Tinnitus
“Many times, a comprehensive hearing evaluation reveals the individual has a hearing loss, and tinnitus is one of their first symptoms,” Dr. Steele added. In some cases, a hearing aid may be the most effective treatment, improving the patient’s hearing, and helping the tinnitus. “We have a number of great hearing aid options,” he said. “Some even have built-in tinnitus maskers that can be very successful.”
Help for Severe Tinnitus
Unfortunately, 2 million people have tinnitus so severe they cannot function “normally” on a day-to-day basis. For individuals with severe tinnitus, Associated Audiologists has several specialists with advanced training and expertise in this field, including Susan Smittkamp, Au.D., Ph.D., FAAA, Tinnitus and Sound Sensitivity manager.
“If you don’t have a hearing loss or a hearing aid doesn’t provide sufficient relief, we have other sound therapy options available,” Dr. Smittkamp said. “But probably most important, you don’t have to live with tinnitus. If you feel like you need help, you probably do.”
Identification Is the First Step to Treating Tinnitus
Dr. Steele added, “I would encourage anyone who has ringing in their ears to schedule a comprehensive hearing evaluation with a doctoral-level audiologist. This the first step in identifying tinnitus and treating the problem.”
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