Accessibility Tools

by Haley Womack, AuD   January 8, 2024

Tinnitus (pronounced tih-NITE- us or TIN-ih-tus) has been described as a ringing, buzzing, hissing, or humming noise when no other physical noise is present. It can be noticeable in one or both ears, and may be constant or intermittent sound.

There are several different reasons tinnitus can occur which includes:

  • hearing loss
  • ear infections or wax
  • head and neck injuries
  • certain medications
  • vascular conditions
  • stress and anxiety

In a large portion of the population, people who experience tinnitus can habituate to the sound. However, in a small portion of the population, tinnitus becomes so bothersome that it begins to affect people’s mental and emotional well-being. In cases where other health concerns have been ruled out, there are several different options for tinnitus management. These options include sound enrichment (sound machines, smartphone apps, TV, radio), hearing aids (if hearing loss is present), tinnitus maskers (device that look like a hearing aid but with no amplification), and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

CBT may be necessary for patients who are experiencing significant mental or emotional stress because of their tinnitus. This must be performed by a licensed mental health professional and is not in an audiologist’s scope of practice unless additional training has been done.

Additionally, certain lifestyle changes can help improve tinnitus severity. Reducing or eliminating caffeine, alcohol and sodium intake can improve tinnitus loudness. Moreover, getting a good night’s sleep and exercise has been proven to help with emotional response to tinnitus.

When to seek medical attention for your tinnitus

  • Unilateral tinnitus
  • New pulsatile tinnitus (tinnitus that goes with your heartbeat)
  • New tinnitus after a head injury
  • Tinnitus associated with dizziness
  • Tinnitus that causes significant mental or emotional distress

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