It is very common to have tinnitus which is associated with the onset or increase of hearing loss . But tinnitus is not only a problem with those who have hearing loss. Tinnitus happens due to neurological changes within the auditory system and within the parts of the brain that influence conscious attention and emotional state. When the natural balance of listening is altered by hearing loss, the neurological activity of the brain changes. This activity is then interpreted by the brain as sound. This results in whistling or ringing sound commonly known as tinnitus.
Tinnitus is also highly associated with noise exposure, which we all have in our lives. Noise is everywhere. But the type of noise exposure that typically leads to tinnitus is ongoing, sustained noise exposure from both recreational and occupational noise.
Recreational noise exposure can happen from shooting guns and not using hearing protection. It can also come from household carpentry work with saws and compression guns. Other types of recreational noise can be motorcycles, driving recreational vehicles, and listening to loud music with headphones.
Occupational noise exposure can happen when you work in an environment that is very loud such as a factory, being a trucker, working around sirens, and industries like carpentry and iron work. It is also prevalent in Veterans who have been exposed to firearms, tanks, machinery, aircraft, large water vessels, and those deployed to places with burn pits and extended noise exposure from active warfare. These locations typically require hearing protection.
But, there was a time when hearing protection was not yet known to be important. If you have been working for 25-40 years in a loud environment, it is likely that you started that career without the use of hearing protection. Working for any length of time in sustained noise, without hearing protection, is a sure reason for hearing loss and associated tinnitus as you age.
Tinnitus prevention starts with minimizing your exposure to loud noises. This can be in the choices that you make for your occupation and recreational activities. If you are going to be exposed to loud noise, then make sure to wear hearing protection. If you already have known hearing loss, then the need for hearing protection is even more pronounced. This is even an opportunity to come to Optimum Audiology and Dr. Mendoza for passive hearing protection that is custom molded to your ear for maximum noise reduction. You can also receive information about active noise reduction devices such as Peltors which allow you to hear conversation but automatically decrease the volume of loud sounds.
Complications of tinnitus cause things like the individual to have anxiety, anxiousness, frustration, isolation, and feelings of hopelessness. This kind of complication is very important to address in seeing a professional that is aware of the emotional effects of tinnitus on an individual. Optimum Audiology and Dr. Mendoza have been working with tinnitus for 30 years. This allows Optimum Audiology and Dr. Mendoza to have knowledge of how to address your specific concerns and frustrations with the tinnitus that you are experiencing. Dr. Mendoza is also aware of warning signs of more complications based on testing and will refer you to the appropriate physician and provide counseling, as needed.
If you have tinnitus, which is very occasional and lasts a very short amount of time, there is nothing pressing that you need to do for that type of tinnitus. However, when the tinnitus is more consuming, lasting longer periods of time, is distracting or is causing you anxiety, then you should consider having a conversation with your Primary Physician, an Audiologist or an Ear Nose Throat physician. If the tinnitus is unilateral, pulsing, persistent and overwhelming, then that is when you should definitely seek help and answers for the tinnitus.
Ask yourself the questions:
Is it occasional or is it persistent?
Is it in one ear or both ears?
Did it come on suddenly?
Is it associated with other things like ear pressure or fullness, ear pain, dizziness, hearing loss?
Is it causing me anxiety?
Is it causing me to not hear others when they are speaking?
If you answered #1, there is likely nothing wrong with the tinnitus you are experiencing. However, if you are experiencing the tinnitus in only one ear and with more of the questions of #2-#6, then you should consider seeing a professional to get more information.
You should see an Audiologist when you are having ongoing tinnitus, unilateral tinnitus, and additional symptoms like ear pressure, ear pain, dizziness and hearing loss. Often the tinnitus is a sign of hearing loss because tinnitus and hearing loss are often found paired together.
An Audiologist is a great place to start because they can do a hearing test, gather important information about your tinnitus (when it started, which ear, type of tinnitus, etc), complete a thorough hearing test and provide detailed information to your Primary Physician or suggest that you go to see an Ear Nose Throat specialist. The road to understanding and dealing with your tinnitus often begins and ends with an Audiologist and is collaborated with other professionals, when needed. The Audiologist is a center point of information and will help you discern your next steps in your journey with tinnitus.
If you are referred to your Primary Physician or an Ear Nose Throat, and there is no medical or surgical answer to helping you with your tinnitus (which includes medical clearance from your physician), then it is often the case that hearing aids help you to overcome the tinnitus and keep your ear busy during the day so the tinnitus is not as overwhelming. Hearing aids can’t eliminate tinnitus but they can help you to decrease your anxiety and the magnitude of the tinnitus.
In addition, there are tinnitus management techniques that you can use to help decrease the tinnitus that you are having during the day.
If the tinnitus does not “go away” then you should see your local Audiologist for a hearing test and consultation. It is always best to choose an Audiologist that specializes in tinnitus treatment. There are professionals that test hearing, that have no training or understanding in tinnitus. It is best to choose a professional that has knowledge and the ability to have conversations with you about your tinnitus and how to best alleviate the tinnitus from interrupting and interfering with your life.
The most common and effective treatment for tinnitus is hearing aids.
Hearing aids are useful to the individual that has associated hearing loss. Hearing aids are also helpful as assistive devices for individuals that do not have hearing loss but do have just tinnitus. The hearing aids tend to “mask” or keep the ear busy with sound being processed by the hearing aid. This sound keeps the ear busy and tends to decrease or alleviate the tinnitus from being heard while the hearing aids are in use. Hearing aids are effective, just as straight hearing aids and amplifiers.
Hearing aids are also useful in that they have tinnitus maskers embedded in the software of the hearing aids. These maskers have sounds that can be played through the hearing aids which function in the way akin to noise cancellation headphones. If you determine where the frequency (pitch) and loudness of the tinnitus is for the individual (via pitch matching in a hearing test), then you can put this same pitch in the ear through the hearing aid and effectively decrease or temporarily eliminate the tinnitus that he patient is hearing from their own auditory system.
Many hearing aids now have tinnitus masking and the ability to provide masking to the patient who is experiencing tinnitus.
Optimum Audiology has been in the business of helping people hear and helping individuals with tinnitus for 30 years. Dr. Mendoza specializes in tinnitus, hearing loss, amplification and aural rehabilitation.
There are several treatments available for those who suffer with tinnitus. This can include hearing aids, assistive devices, aural rehabilitation, tinnitus management, and a combination of all of these treatments.
To determine what is best for you, please give Optimum Audiology a call at 760-503-1700 for help with the best solution and treatment for you.