Tinnitus – What’s This Noise in My Head?

Tinnitus is the subjective perception of sound without any external source

It might be described as a whistle, ringing, hissing, crickets, music, etc. Tinnitus may be constant or occasional. It may occur in one or both ears. It is most often associated with hearing loss or ear-related disease, but not always. Although it is perceived as an acoustic signal, there are some medications and diseases that cause tinnitus in the absence of hearing loss. Furthermore, there may be no known source for a patient’s tinnitus. Millions of people have tinnitus that has no obvious basis.

Tinnitus is generally considered a benign event, but it can indicate a change in hearing or medical status, so it is always worth evaluation. However, if you have been evaluated by your audiologist or medical doctor and no serious medical problem was detected, then you might choose to pursue one of a variety of possible treatments. Medical doctors may offer to prescribe medications or suggest supplements such as ginkgo biloba or zinc. However, there are no medications specifically designed for or approved by the FDA for reducing tinnitus.

Sound therapy has been used to treat tinnitus for many years. The idea is to introduce outside sound in an effort to reduce the perception of the tinnitus signal. Tinnitus-retraining therapy (TRT) is based on the assumption that tinnitus stimulates the limbic and autonomic nervous systems. These systems are responsible for identifying unpleasant or potentially damaging situations. TRT creates habituation by introducing sound to reduce the contrast between the tinnitus and background noise. Counseling is important in reinforcing the understanding that tinnitus is benign and neutral rather than a negative or threatening signal.

Masking is another form of sound therapy. Masking, unlike TRT, totally masks the patient’s tinnitus by introducing another acoustic signal. This method is sometimes bothersome to patients as it may introduce sound that is too loud to tolerate for extended periods of time. Partial masking allows for the use of a softer signal, but the patient may still perceive their tinnitus.

Multiflex Tinnitus Technology was created to combine several sound therapy treatments. The technology can provide amplification for those tinnitus sufferers who also have hearing loss. Additionally, it can provide total or partial tinnitus masking with the introduction of an adjustable broadband stimulus. This technology is available in a small receiver in the ear-style hearing device that is comfortable and very flexible. With the introduction of Soundpoint, the patient can take an active part in their own tinnitus relief.

For more information, please refer to the “Sound Therapy for Tinnitus: Multiflex Tinnitus Technology” paper that we recently shared with our patients. If you would like to find out if this is a good product for you, please call our office and make an appointment with one of our hearing providers. They will gladly assess you and assist you in deciding if this is the right treatment for you.