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What is Tinnitus and Why Does It Happen

Tinnitus is the perception of sound, such as ringing or buzzing, when no external sound is present. Tinnitus is typically only heard by the individual and is a very common phenomenon. There are several known causes of tinnitus including age related hearing loss, exposure to loud noise both short-term and long-term, and earwax blockage.

Two Types of Tinnitus

Tinnitus is the involuntary perception of sound that originates in the head. There are two main types of tinnitus. The first is called Primary tinnitus and is when the source of the tinnitus is unknown. The second is called Secondary tinnitus and is when the tinnitus is caused by an identifiable source such as a vascular issue.

How Tinnitus is Evaluated

Evaluation of tinnitus begins with questionnaires to determine when the tinnitus began and the potential causes, and how tinnitus is affecting the individual’s overall wellbeing. A hearing test will also be performed to determine proper diagnosis. During the hearing test, your audiologist may perform a separate evaluation called tinnitus matching. Your audiologist may play common tinnitus sounds to determine the pitch of your tinnitus, as well as the intensity, to assist in discussing treatment options. After the tinnitus evaluation is performed, your audiologist will discuss treatment and management options.

Treatment Options

There are a variety of options for management of tinnitus that individuals have found to be successful. These included the use of hearing aids or noise maskers, which are able to add in low level noise to cancel out the tinnitus. Maskers and hearing aids may redirect the attention to other noise sources, and distract the listener from the tinnitus. Another treatment option is tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) which helps the individual train their brain to accept the tinnitus, through use of a low level masker. Another option that has proven successful is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which assists in acceptance of the tinnitus and reduction of the negative response to the tinnitus. All management options will be discussed between you and your audiologist to establish the proper care.

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