Do you experience bothersome ear noises (tinnitus) or hypersensitivity to sound (hyperacusis)? The Christiana Care Audiology Department offers retraining therapy for both conditions to relieve symptoms and reduce the impact of phantom auditory perception in the ears or head. These symptoms are frequently described as ringing, buzzing, humming or hissing.
Tinnitus is a conscious experience of a sound that originates in the mind—a perceived sound that is internal and cannot be heard by others.
Hyperacusis is a hearing disorder in which a person reflects abnormally strong reactions resulting from exposure to a sound. A person may experience physical discomfort as a result of exposure to quiet, medium, or loud sounds.
The prevalence of tinnitus in the United States is increasing, especially among returning military personnel. Among the general population, 17 percent (44 million Americans) experience symptoms of tinnitus. Most are able to ignore the symptoms, but some 8 million have a significant problem, and 2 million have a debilitating problem that can impact their sleep cycle and lead to depression, more noticeable symptoms and a need for professional help.
Noise exposure is the most common cause of tinnitus, but the condition is frequently associated with Meniere’s disease, hearing loss, otosclerosis, sinus/ear infections, head injury, tumors, diabetes, thyroid disorders, jaw muscle malfunctions, and more than 200 prescription and non-prescription drugs.
Tinnitus retraining therapy uses a combination of directive counseling and low-level auditory sound therapy to initiate and facilitate habituation to the tinnitus perception. The low-level sound creates sound enrichment and allows the brain to de-emphasize the tinnitus. Sound generators look like a hearing aid and emit a pleasant sound similar to that of a shower. Combination hearing-aid and sound-generator devices may be recommended when hearing loss is present. Combination instruments provide noise for the tinnitus and amplification for communication needs.
If you suspect that you might have tinnitus, avoid silence and enrich your daily life with enjoyable sounds that keep you from focusing on the tinnitus. If tinnitus, hypersensitivity or both conditions are impacting your life, you should be evaluated by an audiologist with specialty training in tinnitus and hypersensitivity.