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What is Tinnitus?
Known commonly as a “ringing of the ears,” tinnitus is a condition in which one experiences a sound without an external stimulus. The sounds of tinnitus may appear in many different forms: a ringing, a buzz, a whistle, a roar, a crackle, a whoosh of air, a hissing, or a click.
Tinnitus has been linked to a number of issues: sleep problems, concentration and memory problems, depression, anxiety, irritability, stress, and fatigue.
Who Experiences Tinnitus?
Approximately 25 million Americans – 10% of the US population – experience tinnitus. Additionally, 60% of veterans returning from combat zones report cases of tinnitus, as well as hearing loss.
Tinnitus may affect anyone, at any time. In fact, most people have had short-lived experiences with tinnitus, which may last anywhere between a few seconds to a few minutes. If you’ve experienced a strange sound in your ear after a live rock show or a live sporting event – both places with high levels of sound – you have experienced temporary tinnitus.
Types of Tinnitus
There are two types of tinnitus: subjective and objective.
Comprising about 99% of cases, subjective tinnitus is the most common form and only the person who experiences the sound is able to hear it.
Objective tinnitus comprises less than 1% of reported cases. With objective tinnitus, both the person who experiences tinnitus and someone in close proximity are able to hear the sound.
The Link Between Tinnitus & Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss is commonly accompanied by tinnitus. Sensorineural hearing loss is result of damage to the nerve fibers in the inner ear. Both noise-induced hearing loss and presbycusis (age-related hearing loss) fall under this category. Eighty percent of people with sensorineural hearing loss experience tinnitus.
Causes of Tinnitus
There is no singular cause for tinnitus. Subjective and objective tinnitus may both be linked to other medical issues, which makes it difficult to identify the exact cause. At the same time, identifying tinnitus as a problem will help to treat other issues you may have. For example, with objective tinnitus, medical conditions related to the cardiovascular system may cause the sounds. Causes of tinnitus include: impacted earwax, ear infection, tumors, circulation disorders, Meniere’s disease, ototoxic medication, and hearing loss.
Because the causes of tinnitus are varied, there is no singular cure. With objective tinnitus, treating related medical conditions might ease the symptoms of tinnitus. For subjective tinnitus, which tends to be linked with hearing loss, hearing aids are usually the best solution to not only improve hearing but to help relieve tinnitus. By wearing hearing aids, people are able to hear more sound around them, which in turn can help reduce the brain’s attention on the tinnitus. If amplification alone doesn’t provide enough relief, a hearing aid with a tinnitus sound therapy feature can be the best solution.
Due to the correlation between hearing aids and tinnitus, major hearing aid manufacturers have incorporated tinnitus therapy into their products. At Kenwood Hearing Centers, we offer many different hearing aids with tinnitus therapy features, including:
Widex Zen Therapy
Widex Zen Therapy is available in most Widex hearing aid models. Widex Zen Therapy provides relief for tinnitus with four components:
- Counseling – to educate and assist the limbic system to alter its negative interpretation of the tinnitus via cognitive and behavior intervention;
- Amplification – to stimulate the ears and brain and to prevent overcompensation;
- Fractal tones – also known as Widex ZEN tones; soothing, synthetic sounds delivered in a discreet and convenient manner, designed to both relax and provide acoustic stimulation;
- Relaxation – highlighted by behavioral exercises and sleep management strategies.
Oticon’s newest hearing aid, Opn, provides tinnitus relief through Tinnitus SoundSupport. Tinnitus SoundSupport is designed to train your brain to move attention away from the sounds of tinnitus. This synthetic sound therapy from Oticon allows you to choose from white noise or soothing nature sounds. Built directly into the hearing aid platform, you have control over your sound therapy experience throughout the day. Make adjustments with the ON app (for both iPhone and Android). If you have an iPhone there also is the option to stream other sounds to provide tinnitus relief, whether it is music from your personal digital library, podcasts, or audiobooks.
Unitron offers tinnitus relief in the form of the Tinnitus Masker, which is available on a number of newer hearing aid models. Unitron is known for its flexible, customizable hearing devices, with TrueFit Software, which allows us to fine-tune your listening experience. With TrueFit, you have three options to mask tinnitus sounds – audiogram, white noise, pink noise – with easy control over volume level and frequency. Broadband sound from the Tinnitus Masker refocuses your brain away from the frustrating noises of tinnitus, and provides temporary relief.
Are you experiencing tinnitus? Contact us at Kenwood Hearing Centers today to schedule a consultation.