Clearing the Air: Tinnitus FAQ - Your Top Questions Answered
What is the medical definition of tinnitus?
- Tinnitus is a phantom sound heard in the ears or head.
Is there a cure for tinnitus?
- We are happy to give you the most straightforward answer we can to the question, “Can tinnitus be cured?”.
- Answer: No.
- But there is also no cure for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and many, if not most, chronic medical conditions afflicting older adults.
- The real question to ask is, “Can tinnitus be effectively treated?”
- Answer: HECK YES! Using our proven treatment program, we can effectively reduce tinnitus in nearly 90% of patients!
- We certainly like those odds. In addition to reducing tinnitus, treatment also improves concentration, sleep and reduces overall stress and anxiety.
How long will it take for my tinnitus to reduce?
- Treating tinnitus can take time. We have had some patients notice immediate relief (within minutes!), whereas some patients can take 6-18 months.
- As a rule of thumb, early detection and treatment increase your chances of noticing a quicker reduction in tinnitus. (Or, on the flip side, the longer you have had the tinnitus, the longer it may take to reduce it!).
- But it will depend on several factors, including how long you have had your tinnitus. For example, if you have had bothersome tinnitus for over 30 years, we wouldn’t anticipate it taking minutes to fix. Instead, you may be one of the patients who need 30, 60, or 90+ days to notice a marked reduction in the ringing. It is important you know this before you start treatment, so you have the right expectations.
Is there a proven way to reduce tinnitus?
- Yes. The most effective and proven treatment for tinnitus is to stimulate the brain with sound to reduce activity in the neural networks that create the phantom perception of sound.
- Perhaps you have been told by some to deal with it and sleep with a fan on to ignore it. Even worse, you may have been told there is nothing that can be done for you!’.
- The approach to treating tinnitus is very logical; if you activate the damaged nerves that connect the ear to the brain, the ‘central gain’ causing the ringing will decrease, ergo you will perceive less tinnitus.
- This prescriptive technology used to directly treat tinnitus is both FDA-regulated and effective in nearly 90% of patients. Recent reports that investigated the impact of treatment on sleep, concentration, work, and when hearing others in a conversation have all noted dramatic reductions in the impact of tinnitus on everyday life.
When treating my tinnitus, should I still worry about my ‘tinnitus triggers’?
- For many patients undergoing treatment, the ringing can be virtually undetectable until a ‘trigger’ ramps up the volume of the tinnitus. Be sure to avoid or protect your ears from the most common triggers for tinnitus, including loud noise (concerts, electric tools, lawnmower, etc.), alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, NSAIDS (ibuprofen, aspirin, etc.,) and stress.
Does acupuncture work to reduce tinnitus?
- Currently, there is no conclusive research to confirm whether acupuncture can effectively alleviate tinnitus symptoms. However, since there are no indications that it could exacerbate tinnitus, you might be inclined to give it a try.
- Acupuncture is a safe practice that may also help to ease other issues and correct imbalances that may be associated with tinnitus, including:
- Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJ)
- Chronic Neck Pain
Do I need tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) for my tinnitus?
- Tinnitus retraining therapy is a form of indirect treatment for tinnitus and may be considered to supplement direct treatment. The benefits of TRT can vary from patient to patient, and minimal peer-reviewed data supports the effectiveness of TRT.
But my doctor said there is nothing that can be done about my tinnitus.
- Most patients that come to see us say, ‘But my doctor told me there is nothing that can be done about the sounds in my ears’, and sometimes we wish we had kinder words, but often blurt out ‘hogwash!’.
- What upsets us the most about this statement is that when addressed properly with the right treatment program and the right prescriptive technology, nearly 90% of patients can expect a reduction in their experience with tinnitus. This means less noise while you sleep, less noise when you work, less noise when you focus, less noise when spending time with others and less noise while living a more fulfilling life.
Is tinnitus harmful?
- Think of tinnitus as your internal warning alarm telling you something is wrong. If you didn’t have tinnitus and now do – something has gone awry! The most common cause of tinnitus is a progressive degeneration of the neural system connecting the ears to the brain. Deficits in this neural network can impact memory/mental health, increase your risk of dementia, and raise your chances of a traumatic fall.
- In addition, untreated tinnitus can impact your emotional, physical, social, economic, and cognitive health.
Will my tinnitus cause hearing loss?
- For most people with tinnitus, it is the result of the same neural degeneration that causes us difficulty hearing. Thus, we often tell our patients that hearing loss is tinnitus, and tinnitus is hearing loss.
How long will my tinnitus last?
- Here’s our equivocal answer: if you don’t treat your tinnitus, it will get worse. And if you properly treat your tinnitus, the odds are in your favor (90%) that you will notice a marked reduction in your tinnitus, and you will likely have less tinnitus.
Is tinnitus a disability?
- While the right treatment can help you to live an active life without the constant interference of tinnitus, extreme cases can be disabling.
Can earwax cause tinnitus?
- Yes! A blockage of earwax can cause tinnitus. However, if the tinnitus persists once the wax is removed, that may indicate you have underlying tinnitus that was only made louder by the presence of earwax. There are many options to safely remove wax; consult with your local www.ExcellenceInAudiology.org approved healthcare provider.
Can tinnitus be prevented?
- This is a tough one – that has both a yes and no answer!
- Given the most common cause of tinnitus is due to aging, tinnitus in most people is not avoidable if you live long enough. The underlying cause of tinnitus can start in the 4th to 5th decade of life and become noticeable shortly after that.
- In many people, there are additional external factors that make their tinnitus worse, including excessive noise exposure, stress, poor diet, lack of sleep, and anxiety.
Can I treat my tinnitus with surgery?
- Many patients that are desperate to reduce their tinnitus will ask if cutting or severing the hearing nerve will eliminate their tinnitus. This permanent, deafness-producing procedure is not a dependable means of reducing tinnitus. In fact, the surgical destruction of a person’s hearing nerve can often leave tinnitus as the only sound heard (like ‘Phantom Limb’).
What are my odds with tinnitus and medication?
- Put bluntly - there are currently NO FDA-approved drugs specifically for treating tinnitus. However, there are pharmacological options to address the stress, anxiety, and depression that are caused by (and can sometimes exacerbate) tinnitus.
For answers to your most pressing questions about tinnitus, visit our Tinnitus FAQ page and gain a deeper understanding of this common condition. www.excellenceinaudiology.org.