Tinnitus: Not Exactly Music to the Ears

Concerts are very fun, but the effects on your hearing are not.

I have to admit it, I am a bit of a music junkie. This past summer has brought several fabulous musicians to the area with concerts I just couldn’t pass up. There’s something about the rhythm and passion that goes into each performance that I absolutely love. But after leaving these wonderful concerts, my ears begin a concert of their own. Most of you have probably experienced it — that annoying ringing, buzzing, humming or cricket chirping in our ears. Once it begins, all I can think of is “Can’t I just have some peace and quiet?”

If you have ever had an experience similar to mine, you are definitely not alone. In the United States, nearly 50 million adults suffer from this perception of sound called tinnitus. Tinnitus occurs when sound is perceived without an external source. Tinnitus can be created in several different areas of our auditory system and the cause can be due to a number of factors.

Some of the most common causes of tinnitus include noise exposure, aging, earwax impaction, head injuries or even as a side effect to certain medications. Several causes of tinnitus remain unknown. For some individuals, these sounds can be very bothersome while others barely notice it.

At this time, there is no specific cure for tinnitus; however, as more and more research is completed, treatments have become available to help individuals adjust to their tinnitus. Treatments for tinnitus tend to fall into two broad categories: counseling and sound therapy. Counseling can play a key role in learning how to cope with the disruptions tinnitus causes in daily life. Through counseling, individuals can learn to change their reactions and behaviors when tinnitus is present. Just like any other obstacle an individual may encounter, attitude matters and an effective support system can help manage life with tinnitus.

Sound therapy can be completed in a number of ways. As many tinnitus sufferers have reported, the presence of environmental background noise can help decrease the perception of tinnitus. This can be accomplished by using objects already in your home, such as a low level fan running, soft music playing or even radio static. In other cases, using a wearable device could prove beneficial. These devices work by generating a “shh noise”, music or other sounds to attempt to mask the tinnitus. Using hearing aids have also been shown to improve overall communication, lessen the stress of exhaustive listening and act as a mask for tinnitus. Different hearing aid companies have introduced tinnitus programs that can be built directly into the hearing aid to not only treat your hearing loss but tinnitus as well.  These are just a few of the many options available in working to overcome the effects of tinnitus.

 If you or someone you know are having difficulties with that bothersome buzzing or ringing, remember you are not alone. For additional information, you can visit a very useful resource developed by the American Tinnitus Association at www.ata.org. Feel free to contact our clinic at Avera Medical Group Ear, Nose & Throat Yankton for more information as well. There may not be a “special” pill to cure your tinnitus, but there are definitely ways we can help improve your quality of life.

By Dr. Kendra Neugebauer

Audiologist at Avera Sacred Heart Hospital