Tinnitus Evaluations & Treatment Options
Tinnitus is the perception of noise in the ears that may manifest itself as ringing, buzzing, clicking, roaring or hissing. Though, usually not a serious medical problem, tinnitus can nonetheless be extremely intrusive, and impact the patient's quality of life. It is considered a symptom, caused by a variety of underlying conditions, such as a problem with the inner or middle ear.
Causes of tinnitus include exposure to loud noise; otosclerosis, or abnormal bone growth in the ear; damage to the hair cells of the inner ear; a disorder of the circulatory system; injury to the ear; excessive wax buildup in the ear; neurological dysfunction; or age-related hearing loss.
Tinnitus is diagnosed through tests including a physical examination and an audiological examination. During the physical examination, the abnormal noises that characterize tinnitus can be heard through a stethoscope or ear tube by the doctor. It is important that a proper diagnosis be made, not only so that the tinnitus can be treated successfully, but so that any serious underlying condition can be addressed as well.
Most individuals with tinnitus can be effectively treated, with the main focus on improving the patient's hearing. Treatments typically include wearing hearing aids, managing ear wax buildup and use of white noise devices that help mask the phantom noises associated with tinnitus.
Cerumen (Ear Wax) Management
Ear wax, also known as cerumen, is a natural substance produced by glands in the ear canal to protect the eardrum from damage and infections. Ear wax normally accumulates and then dries up and falls out of the ear canal. It functions to rid the ear of dust particles and other irritants and repel water, which may contain bacteria and can cause infections. Without ear wax, the ears would be dry, itchy and unprotected. Symptoms of ear wax blockages may include dizziness, partial hearing loss, earache, a feeling of the ear being plugged or full and ringing in the ear.
While many people think the best way of managing ear wax buildup is to clean the wax out with a cotton swab, doing so may cause further damage by pushing the wax further into the ear canal. For most patients, over-the-counter ear drops will be sufficient to clear the ear wax buildup. However, if a patient has a significant amount of wax blocking the ear canal, the excess wax will need to be safely removed by a trained professional. The removal process may involve either irrigation with a warm water solution or suction treatments that make use of miniature instruments to draw the wax out.
Aural Rehabilitation Services
Aural rehabilitation services are designed to help patients understand and adjust to their hearing loss. They can provide patients with the tools to deal with their hearing loss and improve their communication skills. Aural rehabilitation services usually involve an assessment of the patient's level and type of hearing loss, providing better listening strategies, options for hearing aids and assistive listening devices and counseling for coping with the often emotional aspects of hearing loss.
Children and adults benefit from these services, although rehabilitation services for children and adults are quite different. For babies and young children, aural rehabilitation service programs often involve an audiological evaluation, the selection of a hearing aid or other listening device and communication skill development, which typically involves learning sign language. Family members are encouraged to take part in these services in order to help the child adjust to living with hearing loss.
Adult aural rehabilitation services generally include an assessment of hearing loss, selection of a hearing aid and assistive listening devices and the development of an effective therapy program that to help patients acclimate to their hearing loss.
Complimentary Second Opinions
Patients may have various reasons for obtaining a second opinion regarding their hearing loss or recommended treatment methods. Complimentary second opinions are available for patients who wish to confirm a hearing loss, adjust or change their hearing aids or assistive listening devices or seek advice on any new treatment. During a second opinion appointment, the patient's current hearing acuity will be evaluated, along with their medical history, to determine whether there are alternative treatments that can better meet their hearing needs.