According to the American Tinnitus Association, over 45 million Americans struggle with tinnitus, making it one of the most common health conditions in the United States. However, because there is no scientifically proven cure for chronic tinnitus, many audiologists shy away from treating these patients.
If you’re one of the 50 million Americans who suffer from tinnitus, you already know that sleeping can be difficult. Tinnitus contributes to sleeping problems, and sleeping problems contribute to tinnitus. If you don’t address the problem, it can easily spiral out of control.
Tinnitus is the perception of sound in the ears. Tinnitus is generally regarded as a symptom of an underlying condition (i.e. acoustic trauma, age-related hearing loss). Studies have approximated that 10-15% of people in the United States have tinnitus. Tinnitus can be described in two ways:
Among audiologists, the use of newer sound therapies for tinnitus can be a controversial topic. For decades, the use of Tinnitus Retraining Therapy has been shown to be a moderately successfully approach for inducing the habituation response in tinnitus sufferers.1 Newer sound therapies, however, purport to directly lower the volume of a patient’s tinnitus tone.2 Researchers have hypothesized that sustained listening to specific sound therapies results in neuroplastic changes in the brain that can reduce tinnitus tone volume.2 In general, however, research in this space has been limited by small sample sizes and a lack of high quality randomized controlled trials.5
Buzzing, hissing, ringing, swooshing, crackling, clicking, pulsing, roaring, and the list goes on. All descriptions heard from patients complaining of tinnitus, usually a completely subjective description of a presence of noise in the ear/s. If the patient is referred to an ENT, and then sent back with no major finding explaining the tinnitus, what’s the next best step? The intent of this article is to provide a brief review of tinnitus and best practices for tinnitus evaluation, as well as a discussion of tinnitus counseling.