What’s That Ringing in My Ears? Part II

In Part I of this article, we talked about what tinnitus is and how to prevent it. In this part, we discuss several treatment and management options that are available if you already suffer from it.

So what do you do if you already have tinnitus? Many people have tinnitus and are not particularly bothered by it. For those who have not been able to avoid it and find that it affects their quality of life, there are treatment options. Some find that hearing aids are helpful, particularly if the sufferer has difficulty hearing sounds and is also bothered by his tinnitus.

Hearing aids may include an integrated tinnitus masking sound, or may simply amplify environmental sounds and background sounds to the point where these successfully mask, or interfere with tinnitus for some. Many tinnitus patients, however, either do not have enough hearing loss to warrant hearing aids, are not ready to use them, or simply do not want a hearing aid. For them, the option may be sound therapy.

Sound therapy is the use of a sound to partially interfere with the tinnitus, in combination with appropriate counseling and education. A common sound used in sound therapy is white noise. White noise is effective for some in masking their tinnitus, but many report that to get any interference with their tinnitus, the noise needs to be so loud that they find it more bothersome than the tinnitus itself.

A relatively new type of sound called S-Tones is now available. S-Tones were developed by researchers at the University of California and are available from an audiologist or hearing healthcare provider on a handheld sound therapy device called the SoundCure Serenade. S-Tones are customized to each person’s tinnitus with amplitude (loudness) modulated tones that are pitch matched to the tinnitus itself.

Researchers believe that the modulation, (varying of the loudness of the tones at a specific rate), engages neurons in the brain to a greater extent thus allowing sounds to be played at softer volumes while still interfering with the tinnitus. When used as part of a long term habituation program, the intent is to change a patient’s perception of his tinnitus over time minimizing both the amount of time the tinnitus is bothersome, as well as the degree to which it is bothersome.

No single approach to managing or treating tinnitus will be appropriate for everyone so it is important to discuss treatment options with an audiologist. Often, with the many options to sound therapy, there are not good predictors as to which will be the most appropriate so trying different options to find the right solution may be necessary.

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