What is Tinnitus ?
Tinnitus is an abnormal sensation of sound when there is actually no physical sound present. The condition is often associated with hearing loss of various causes. The most common causes of hearing loss and tinnitus in adults include noise exposure and age-related loss (presbycusis). In some cases, there may be tinnitus without significant hearing loss, due to another type of abnormality of the auditory system due to head injury or other factors. The severity of tinnitus often decreases over time but in some cases may remain bothersome.
What is the Evaluation Process?
Patients with tinnitus undergo a full ear nose and throat evaluation in addition to testing such as audiogram. Further studies such as MRI or CT may also be ordered.
Most patients with tinnitus have hearing loss as the most likely etiology, and the most effective treatment for both the tinnitus and hearing loss is to reduce or eliminate the hearing loss. In some cases, surgery can restore the hearing, which in turn may reduce or eliminate the tinnitus. In many cases, the hearing loss is not surgically correctable, so a hearing aid is the most effective treatment. Tinnitus maskers are devices which look like hearing aids that produce a noise in the ear that “masks” or suppresses the tinnitus sensation for patients without significant hearing loss. There are numerous other treatments that are offered by various facilities that may or may not be useful for individuals. These treatments include medications (vitamins, antidepressants, anti-seizure medications, anti-anxiety medications), biofeedback, and tinnitus retraining programs with or without use of tinnitus maskers.