Tinnitus or “ringing in the ears” is defined as a phantom auditory perception of a sound when no external noise is present.
It is described as a buzzing, hissing, whistling, swooshing or clicking sound. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates 15% of the general population experiences tinnitus. This equates to over 50 million Americans who experience some sort of tinnitus. Of that 50 million, not all are bothered by it, but 20 million are reported to struggle with burdensome chronic tinnitus and 2 million have debilitating tinnitus. Tinnitus is one of the most common health conditions in the U.S. (American Tinnitus Association). While those with hearing loss have a higher risk of tinnitus, tinnitus can be present in those with normal hearing as well. Tinnitus symptoms can also lead to problems with sleep and concentration, emotional difficulties including depression, anxiety and stress and can seriously affect one’s life style.
Jastreboff and Jastreboff (2000) describes a neurophysiologic model of tinnitus. In this model, tinnitus is initiated in the periphery of the auditory system, detected in the subcortical auditory centers, perceived at the cortical areas and sustained at the limbic and autonomic nervous systems. While there is currently no scientifically-validated cure for tinnitus, there are treatment options that can ease the perceived burden of tinnitus. Every day, healthcare professionals are confronted with patients who suffer from tinnitus and are seeking professional services. At SENT Hearing Aid Center, we utilize Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) to treat tinnitus based on this neurophysiologic model. The first step is to exclude any medical conditions that may present with the onset of tinnitus. After medical clearance, TRT includes evaluation, assessment, education and habituation of reactions of the limbic and autonomic nervous systems for the habituation of perception. This is achieved through the use of devices and strategies to reduce negative reactions. While 60% of patients report some relief of their tinnitus when using hearing instruments alone, additional tinnitus therapy programs using a variety of signal sounds have been very effective in managing chronic burdensome and debilitating tinnitus.
Tinnitus can substantially and negatively impact one’s quality of life. The goal of tinnitus treatment is to reach a point where the tinnitus ceases to have a negative impact on the patient’s life. At SENT Hearing Aid Center, we are honored to be a part of this successful process.