What Causes Tinnitus?
The exact cause of tinnitus is not known in every case. However, there are several likely factors which may cause tinnitus or make existing head noise worse. These include:
- Noise-induced hearing loss
- Wax build-up in the ear canal
- Certain medications
- Ear or sinus infections
- Age-related hearing loss
- Ear diseases and disorders
- Jaw misalignment
- Cardiovascular disease
- Certain types of tumors
- Thyroid disorders
- Head and neck trauma
How is Tinnitus Treated?
Generally, most patients will not need any medical treatment for tinnitus. There are several treatments and measures to help with the management of tinnitus including:
- Listening to a fan or radio
- Tinnitus masking devices
- Biofeedback training
- Avoidance measures
- Avoidance of certain medications
- Hearing aids, if the listener also has a hearing loss
If these measures do not work, there are several medications that have been utilized to suppress tinnitus. Some patients benefit with these drugs and others do not. Each patient has an individual response to medication, and what works for one patient may not work for another.
What is Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT)?
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) uses a combination of low level, broadband noise and counseling to achieve the habituation of tinnitus (ringing or sound in the ears). This treatment allows the patient to no longer be aware of their tinnitus, except when they focus their attention on it, and even then tinnitus is not annoying or bothersome.
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy requires close co-operation with your hearing professional. The therapy is employed at the perceived source of the tinnitus and aims to teach the brain to ignore it.
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy combines three significant therapeutic steps:
Directive Counseling: Intensive patient education about the auditory mechanism and the role of the brain plays in tinnitus perception. With education, the tinnitus will be ‘demystified’. This will help reduce distress and anxiety about the tinnitus.
Sound Therapy: Use of ear level or table-top sound generators and/or hearing aids to provide continuous stimulation of the auditory system to interfere with the perception of tinnitus. This would also include the use of environmental sounds. This will also help reduce distress and anxiety about the tinnitus.
Time: It takes time for the brain to habituate to the perception of tinnitus. Most patients report a noticeable improvement is as little as 6-8 weeks. The duration of the TRT program can last between 16 – 24 months.