By Chrystle Fiedler
IF YOUR EARS are ringing, hissing, buzzing, roaring, whistling, chirping or clicking,
you may have tinnitus; the term is derived
from the Latin word tinnire, which means
“to ring.” An estimated 42 million to 50 million adult Americans have tinnitus, which is
the perception of a sound in one or both ears
when no external sound is present.
For many, it’s a neutral sound and not
bothersome, but if you’re one of the 10 million people who suffer from clinically significant tinnitus, it’s a serious problem.
“Tinnitus can make it really difficult to function in everyday life, at work, at home and in
social relationships,” says Craig Newman,
the section head of audiology at the
Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.
Tinnitus can be caused by loud noises,
medications such as aspirin that can damage
the nerves in the ear, impacted earwax, mid-dle-ear problems (such as infections or vascular tumors), Ménière’s disease (a disorder
of the balance mechanism in the inner ear),
aging or clenching one’s jaw or grinding
“Many things can trigger tinnitus, but
the most common thing by far is hearing
loss,” says Dr. David J. Eisenman, associate
professor of otorhinolaryngology (head and
neck surgery) at the University of Maryland
School of Medicine. “Treatment of a hearing
loss will often improve tinnitus.”
“[A hearing aid] improves your commu-
nication so you can hear better in everyday
activities and provide relief from the tinni-
tus,” agrees Newman, a Costco member.
If you are bothered by what you believe is
tinnitus, start by going to see your doctor. “A
thorough evaluation will help exclude any
underlying cause of tinnitus that is potentially
treatable,” says Eisenman, who also serves as
director of the otology and neurology pro-
gram at the University of Maryland Medical
Center. Tell your doctor what noise(s) you’ve
been subjected to, medications you may be
taking or have taken, and other factors, such
as jaw clenching, teeth grinding and injuries.
Your physician may refer you to an ear, nose
and throat doctor and an audiologist for a
complete hearing assessment.
So, what are some other ways you can
address the problem of tinnitus? These tips
and strategies can help.
Soothe with sound therapy
White noise can help mask the sound of
tinnitus. “Environmental enrichment devices
like tabletop sound machines with waterfall
or ocean sounds or water fountains can be
helpful,” says Newman. “The idea is to pro-
vide some sound in the environment since
the brain perceives tinnitus as being louder
when it’s quiet.”
You can create custom soundscapes at
the American Tinnitus Association’s website
( www.ata.org, click on Play Sound Mixer), or
check out custom apps for smartphones. “For
many people, sound therapy is all they need
to treat the tinnitus,” says Eisenman.
Sound generators look like hearing aids
but they produce a shower-like sound to
mask the tinnitus. A combination unit works
if you have hearing loss and tinnitus, improving hearing and providing a quiet background sound.
When at sleep, keep a low level of sound
on, whether it’s music or the TV on in the
background or other tinnitus-masking
sounds. A sound pillow with speakers will
surround your head with music and not disturb your partner.
Change how you react
Having tinnitus can be anxiety producing and stressful because you feel as if you
don’t have control over your environment.
“The most consistent method that has been
demonstrated is the use of cognitive behavioral therapy,” says Newman. “It helps you to
change the way you think about tinnitus and
Treating the pain of tinnitus
The Costco Connection
Costco members can get their hearing
checked, be fitted for and purchase hearing aids at Costco Hearing Aid Centers and
find helpful vitamins, minerals, ear plugs and
more at Costco and on Costco.com.
for your health
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