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Tinnitus evaluation and treatment

Tinnitus is a generic term describing the occurrence of a sound inside the ear. Although tinnitus is often referred to as "ringing in the ear," the sound is often described as a buzzing in the ear, a hum, or a clicking sound in the ear. It can be random, of short duration, or it can be continuous.

Tinnitus is a symptom

Although the most common occurrence is tinnitus as an indicator of hearing loss, tinnitus can be secondary to many conditions. Oftentimes, the brain habituates to the sound, and it is no longer noticed.

Most common causes of tinnitus:

  • Sensorineural hearing loss
  • Medications
  • Noise exposure
  • Wax block
  • Ear infection or fluid build-up in the middle ear
  • TMJ
  • Meniere's disease
  • Neck injury
  • Growth on the cranial nerve

Determining the cause of the tinnitus is often a task of narrowing down the possibilites. A diagnostic audiologic evaluation and an Ear, Nose, and Throat evaluation is often necessary.

How is tinnitus tested?

Your Audiologist will document the pitch, loudness, and character of the tinnitus. Remember that the tinnitus you hear inside your ear will not be an exact match of the sound that is presented from the equipment, but the purpose is to document the closest characteristics. Your Audiologist will ask you the following:

  • What does the tinnitus sound like?
  • Is it high pitch or low pitch? 
  • How loud is the tinnitus?

Your answers will allow him or her to choose from a pure tone, narrow band noise, or broad band noise to attempt to "match" or document the sound. Your Audiologist will present a pair of stimui and ask you to choose which stimuli sounded "closer" to your tinnitus. As you continue to choose from each pair of stimuli, the sound from the equipment will "match" your tinnitus closer. After the closest pitch is determined, the intensity of the tinnitus will be documented.

Steps for treating tinnitus:

  1. Start with the diagnostic audiologic evaluation. Make sure the audiologic evaluation includes a tinnitus evaluation
  2. Make an appointment the your Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist to rule out medical conditions
  3. After medical conditions or any obstruction in the ear canal have been ruled out, you can consider tinnitus treatment options
  4. The choice of treatment will depend upon how much the tinnitus is impacting your life.