What are those noises you hear?
Laine Waggoner, MA, MS
WHAT IT IS:
A subjective perception of sound in the ears or head, where no external source
Full range of sounds: ringing in the ears, chirping, crickets, whooshing,
pulsing, ocean waves, buzzing or music. Sound can be low, mid-range or
PART OF EAR AFFECTED:
May be from spontaneous activity in the brain or a problem in the inner hair
cells of the cochlea. It may have a genetic component, but more studies need to
Unknown. Following are possibilities.
- Up to 90% of sufferers, have
some level of noise induced HL, when hair cells (cilia) are damaged or
- Ear wax buildup.
- Ototoxic medications: cause
temporary or permanent tinnitus.
- Ear or sinus infections.
- Misalignment of jaw joints or
- Cardiovascular disease (3% have
- Tumor on the auditory, vestibular or
- Head and neck trauma.
Varies. It can be temporary, intermittent or constant.
IMPACT ON HEARING:
Ranges from none to so extreme that it drowns out speech sounds.
MOST AFFECTED POPULATION:
One third of the population or 50 million people of all ages. Tinnitus is the
most commonly referred otological problem in the US. The ATA says that 12
million people seek medical attention because of its severity and two million
are seriously debilitated by it daily.
None found except for the obvious: avoid loud noises and maintain good health.
best if several are combined:
Amplification- Hearing aids usually give total or partial relief
Low-level sound is reduced by hearing aid-like devices can reduce or
eliminate perception of sound.
Implants/Electrical stimulation- some deaf and near-deaf patients report
temporary or permanent tinnitus relief after the CIís
electrodes destroy the healthy hair cells remaining in their cochlea.
therapy- Anti-anxiety, anti-depressants, anti-histamines, anti-convulsants
or anesthetics have provided relief to some.
retraining therapy (TRT)- in-the-ear sound generators provide background
low-level sounds. With counseling can help patients eventually grow unaware
of their tinnitus. Can take 12-24 months.
Biofeedback- relaxation technique helps patients to change their bodyís
reaction to stress by learning to control pulse rate, muscle tension and
brain wave activity.
therapy- Talk therapy focuses on patientís negative thinking and behavior to
change his/her emotional reactions to tinnitus.
treatment- dental TMJ treatment or bite alignment can help if jaw is
Alternative treatments- vitamins, minerals, herbs, acupuncture, hypnosis,
etc.; usually minimally risky.
American Tinnitus Assn., About Tinnitus,
Tinnitus Assistance Fund-
Eligible applicants may qualify for $750 to pay for treatment, travel
and prescribed devices. 800-634-8978
Waggoner is the Director of HEAR (Hearing-loss
Education And Relationships), which conducts support
groups, facilitates seminars, and provides private coaching for individuals who
are experiencing hearing loss. Email:
Member of the Gallaudet University Peer Mentoring Certificate Program.
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