What Is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a medical condition characterized by persistent ringing in one or both ears that can only be heard by the affected individual. It can have my descriptions to its sound quality, such as whistling, hissing, buzzing, or pulsing in the ear. These sounds may come and go or fluctuate in terms of severity, but for most tinnitus sufferers, the symptoms produce a constant, maddening drone. The emotional effects to patients range from slight annoyance to severe disruption of everyday life that to some may reach the point of distress.
Chronic tinnitus can affect a person’s work, family, social life and overall health and mental health. It can interfere with sleep, make it difficult to concentrate or to relax, which can lead to social isolation and contribute to anxiety and depression.
Tinnitus is one of the top 5 complaints reported to family physicians and occurs in ~17% of the world population (Hoffman, 2004: The National Institutes of Health). Thirty three % of the elderly population report it to their M.D., 20% find it is occasionally disturbing (~20 million Americans), 8% are bothered by their tinnitus (~20 million), and 1% of patients are significantly affected (~2 million – but these patients must be treated by someone with knowledge of the condition so as NOT to worsen their symptom due to, what Dr. Jastreboff refers to as “Negative Counseling” (which is very common in healthcare).
Tinnitus can be caused by a variety of conditions and/or traumas, and each patient’s case is unique in terms of its onset, severity and potential exacerbating factors of the neck and jaw. Tinnitus is a secondary symptom of hearing loss, and occurs due to loss of outer hair cells within the cochlea. While hearing loss may be present, not all hearing impaired patients have tinnitus, however it can be triggered at any time that loss exists, and most often from exposure to loud noises, whiplash injuries, head injuries, barotraumas, and other reasons, which is why a proper diagnostic examination with an audiologist is critical. Tinnitus is a chronic condition that has no cure, however treatment is highly effective in ~86-92% of cases. Tinnitus triggers the anxiety and stress responses in the body of the limbic system and autonomic nervous system that waxes and wants with stress, anxiety and lack of sleep. (See the Neurophysiological Model of Tinnitus attached).
Tinnitus is a chronic condition that has no cure, and the only effective treatment, documented in the literature that exceeds the 40% placebo rate, is treatment with amplification or maskers that has been consistently shown in the clinical literature with an over 80% effectiveness rate, for more than 2 decades. Due to the personal and unique nature of each tinnitus patient, the cause of the onset of the symptom, the co-morbid conditions and exacerbating factors, proper evaluation and individualized treatment or therapy is necessary for each patient. Treatment plans may also include referrals to other clinicians including physiatrists, neurophysiologists, dentists and clinical psychologists.
If you are experiencing the symptoms of tinnitus, please visit us for a consultation.