What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is the perception of sound described as ringing, buzzing, humming, hissing or roaring when external noise is not present. It can also sound like chirping, clicking or crickets. It affects 17% of the general population and 33% of the elderly. Currently over 50 million Americans are affected to some degree, according to the American Tinnitus Association. The tinnitus can be constant or intermittent. While the auditory system may be the origin, other systems determine if a person only experiences tinnitus or suffers from it.

Causes Of Tinnitus:

1. Loud and excessive exposure to noise
2. Head trauma
3. Inner ear damage due to the process of aging
4. Hypertension
5. Impacted cerumen (wax)
6. Ototoxic drugs & medications including aspirin
7. Diseases of the ear:

8. TMJ (jaw) problems
9. Unknown.

Things To Avoid If You Have Tinnitus Are:

1. Loud sounds – wear hearing protection.
2. Caffeine.
3. Alcohol.
4. Nicotine.
5. Stress.
6. Aspirin – ibuprofen – anti-inflammatory agents.
7. Silence – A low-level meaningless background noise may help.

Helping the Tinnitus Patient

1. Medical evaluation by ENT physician to rule out medical condition that needs treatment.
2. Audiological evaluation to identify co-existing hearing loss.
3. Tinnitus evaluation – match the tinnitus which is helpful in treatment options.
4. Hearing Aids.
5. Counseling
6. Tinnitus Relaxation Tapes
7. Tinnitus Retraining Therapy. 

TRT developed by Dr. Pawel Jastreboff in 1990 at the University of Maryland Tinnitus Center at www.tinnitus-hyperacusis.com. This new clinical approach has resulted in a significant improvement for many patients but it does take 18 months to 2 years. This method uses sound generators and counseling to achieve habituation of the tinnitus. Habituation occurs when the patient is no longer aware of the tinnitus or is no longer bothered or annoyed by it. According to this model, the annoyance of the tinnitus is determined by the limbic and autonomic nervous system. It is possible to modify the way the brain responds to the tinnitus signal.