What We Do at the First Tinnitus Appointment
When you come to your appointment, our provider will provide a thorough and comprehensive evaluation. Afterwards, your provider will review your testing, discuss your unique situation and go over your questionnaire results including a management plan individually designed for you. Links between tinnitus and both external and internal physiological factors will be reviewed with you. The provider will discuss different tinnitus management strategies, and make recommendations specifically for you and your unique situation.
And within a week of your appointment, the provider will supply you with a comprehensive report and comprehensive plan of action to help you.
While some of the tinnitus testing and evaluation is usually covered by insurance, a tinnitus consultation is not, and there is a cost of $250.
More About Tinnitus
Tinnitus is a very common symptom suffered to some extent by 70-85% of people with hearing impairment and can also occur in individuals without hearing loss. For most it is more of an “irritant” than a major problem. Tinnitus can be perceived as many different sounds, such as humming, ringing or buzzing, and it can be constant or periodic and vary in loudness. There can be many causes of tinnitus. Often the reason is unknown. Frequently it is noise induced, is related to medical disorders such as ear infections or Ménière’s disease, or may be caused by use of certain drugs. Regardless of the cause, there is a very high correlation between the presence of hearing loss and tinnitus. This correlation is probably related to the well-established principle that a peripheral disorder (such as a cochlear hearing loss) produces an increase in brain activity. In other words, the brain tries to compensate for the lack of stimulation from the inner ear. Often, negative emotion is attached to the tinnitus, and increased attention is paid to it –making it difficult for the patient to cope. It is consequently important to talk to patients about their thoughts and concerns. Tinnitus is often more difficult to deal with when there is uncertainty or fear involved. Once medical evaluation has ruled out a treatable or serious disorder, education and reassurance can be extremely valuable and may be sufficient for some people. Fortunately the brain has the capacity to learn to ignore stimuli that are not essential for wellbeing.
What Causes Tinnitus
Tinnitus can be triggered by a variety of causes, but is commonly linked to exposure to loud sounds, which can damage the delicate sensory cells of the inner ear. This condition has also been associated with ear infections, aging, stress, excessive earwax, high blood pressure, and sensory nerve disorders. Activities such as smoking; drinking alcohol or caffeine, and taking excessive amounts of aspirin or antibiotics may exacerbate tinnitus.
The first step is to undergo a professional evaluation. Counseling with an experienced hearing healthcare professional trained in managing tinnitus, improves your chances of success in regaining your quality of life. The effects of tinnitus can often be minimized by a combination of counseling and sound stimulation.
How We Help People Manage Their Tinnitus
Every case is different and we make different plans for each person. Sometimes these plans include sound enhancement and help to minimize the contrast between the buzzing or ringing of tinnitus and the surrounding sound environment. Sound enhancement can be provided in a variety of ways and depends on each patient's needs. Sometimes we will recommend hearing aids, sound generators, maskers, or combinations of these in products like Zen. (see "What is Zen?" below for more information.
Relaxation and stress reduction exercises are always part of the discussion - and DVDs and CDs are usually provided to the patient to help reinforce these exercises at home. Sometimes we use plans that include cooperation from other healthcare providers depending on the suspected reason for the tinnitus. For example we may suggest certain medical tests, we also may recommend certain therapies.
What is Zen?
A highly original hearing aid feature that has been shown in a clinical study to be a promising tool for tinnitus relief is known as Zen. The patented Zen Program is available exclusively in certain Widex hearing aids. Zen is a series of tones played to an individual with tinnitus to help with management.
The Zen tones are inspired by the relaxing effect of certain types of music. Zen plays random, chime-like tones that can be used for relaxation and for making tinnitus less noticeable.
With stress named as one of the most common factors involved with tinnitus, relaxation and stress reduction are vital elements in effective tinnitus management.
For some people with tinnitus, counseling and the use of hearing aids with Zen may be the key to reclaiming clear, uninterrupted hearing. The effect of using Zen can be immediate but for most it will take some time. Your hearing care professional will help you set realistic goals and can adjust the Zen program if needed.
Zen is for daily use. You can use it to avoid complete silence and so reducing your focus on the tinnitus. It can also be used for meditation and relaxation purposes.