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Constant Ringing in Your Ears? Hearing Aids Offer Hope

By Nicole Wasel, Au.D., CCC-A, F-AAA

Nicole Wasel, Au.D., CCC-A, F-AAA

If it seems like your ears ring constantly, you’re not alone. You may have tinnitus, an inner ear ailment that affects between 25 million to 50 million Americans - with about 12 million people experiencing such severe symptoms it affects their daily lives.
The good news is treatment, including hearing aids, can offer relief to some suffering the persistent ringing, buzzing or humming associated with tinnitus. A recent study found that six out of 10 patients reported some tinnitus relief when using hearing aids and two out of 10 reported major relief (Kochkin and Tyler, 2008).
Tinnitus can be intermittent or constant. Causes range from ear infections and overexposure to extremely loud noises, to underlying health problems like allergies or heart and blood pressure problems.
Although tinnitus is actually common and can cause major life disruptions, the number of sufferers who seek treatment for the problem is relatively small. One reason may be that they mistakenly believe their condition is untreatable. Unfortunately, many doctors are also unaware of the latest treatment option. Patients may think they simply have to learn to live with the noise.

While hearing aids are not a cure for tinnitus, they may be able to help tinnitus patients by:
• Improving communication and reducing stress, which makes it easier to cope with the condition.
• Amplifying background sounds, which can make tinnitus seem less loud and prominent.
In addition, there are new hearing aids specifically designed for tinnitus that are inspired by the relaxing effect of certain types of music. These devices play random, chime-like tones that can be used for relaxation and for making tinnitus less noticeable.
If you think you have tinnitus have your hearing evaluated by a hearing health professional and to explore the use of hearing aids to alleviate tinnitus. The American Academy of Otolaryngology and the American Tinnitus Association recommends these additional tips for minimizing the effects of tinnitus on your health:
• Avoid exposure to loud sounds and noises.
• Get your blood pressure checked. If it is high, get your doctor’s help to control it.
• Decrease your intake of salt. Salt impairs blood circulation.
• Avoid stimulants such as coffee, tea, cola, and tobacco.
• Exercise daily to improve your circulation.
• Get adequate rest and avoid fatigue.
• Eliminate or reduce some stress in different parts of your life; stress often makes tinnitus worse.
• Experiment by eliminating other possible sources of tinnitus aggravation, e.g. artificial sweeteners, sugar, alcohol, prescription or over-the-counter medications.
(Do not stop taking medications without consulting with your health care professional about the possible ototoxic impact of your medications.)
Furthermore Washington Ear, Nose and Throat and the Better Hearing Institute recommends that in addition to the practical tips above (which apply to a healthy lifestyle for all people) that people with tinnitus may receive benefit by simply understanding the causes, myths and facts about tinnitus through either counseling or self-help books. “We believe that if hearing health professionals can provide effective treatment for tinnitus, they also can be instrumental in motivating people to concurrently treat their hearing loss,” Kochkin says. “This would have a double impact in improving the quality of life for millions of Americans.”

To make an appointment with Dr. Nicole Wasel, Audiologist at Washington Ear, Nose and Throat, call (724) 225-8995. For more information, visit www.washingtonent.net.

Article adapted with permission from The Better Hearing Institute. To learn more, visit www.betterhearing.org.

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