Tired of that ring­ing in your ears?

Learn how to treat tin­ni­tus

Edmonton Journal - - LETTERS - L. HAR­RI­SON KELLY

Let the good news ring out (though not too loudly): Tin­ni­tus is highly treat­able.

Tin­ni­tus de­scribes the per­cep­tion of noise with no ex­ter­nal source. Most of­ten it’s a ring­ing in the ears — hence the name: tin­ni­tus is Latin for “ring­ing” or “tin­kling.”

Many peo­ple suf­fer from tin­ni­tus, par­tic­u­larly as they age. A 2011 Amer­i­can study found that roughly one quar­ter of peo­ple aged 6584 ex­pe­ri­ence it. A grow­ing num­ber of those af­flicted with tin­ni­tus are seek­ing out treat­ment for it.

“It’s be­come one of the most com­mon ques­tions we get,” says Kari Weis­ger­ber, owner of the Hear In Ed­mon­ton au­di­ol­ogy clin­ics. “All of our so­cial me­dia con­ver­sa­tions seem to tilt to­wards this.”

Weis­ger­ber thinks the In­ter­net is play­ing a role in help­ing peo­ple re­al­ize they may have tin­ni­tus.

“In­for­ma­tion about tin­ni­tus is more ac­ces­si­ble than ever be­fore,” she says. “In the past, you might go to your fam­ily doc­tor and they’d say, ‘There’s not a ton we can do about this.’ But now peo­ple can ed­u­cate them­selves.”

Of course, re­ly­ing solely on the In­ter­net for med­i­cal ex­per­tise is never ad­vis­able. This is why Weis­ger­ber is or­ga­niz­ing free in­for­ma­tion ses­sions with other hear­ing pro­fes­sion­als on tin­ni­tus.

On Nov. 22 at the Chateau Nova ho­tel in Ed­mon­ton, Weis­ger­ber will host two in­for­ma­tion ses­sions, each fea­tur­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion from Su­san, an au­di­ol­o­gist spe­cial­ized in treat­ing tin­ni­tus. Other lo­cal med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als and busi­nesses will also be on to an­swer au­di­ence ques­tions.

The free event will also fea­ture door prizes, and each at­tendee will re­ceive a voucher for a free hear­ing exam.

Tin­ni­tus, says Flynn, is usu­ally caused by one of two things, both en­vi­ron­men­tal — that is, your ge­netic her­itage does not play a huge role in whether you will de­velop tin­ni­tus in your life.

“The main risk fac­tor is noise ex­po­sure,” she says. Con­struc­tion work­ers and vet­er­ans very of­ten de­velop tin­ni­tus.

The other main driver of tin­ni­tus is med­i­ca­tion. A wide variety of these can cause tin­ni­tus, from over­the-counter painkillers to chemo­ther­apy treat­ments.

“Usu­ally it has to be quite a strong drug to cause tin­ni­tus,” says Flynn. “But this is not al­ways the case.”

Peo­ple tend to take more med­i­ca­tions as they age, which is one rea­son tin­ni­tus is more com­mon among se­niors.

Re­gard­less of its cause, tin­ni­tus is highly treat­able by mod­ern au­di­ol­ogy. The most com­mon treat­ment is what au­di­ol­o­gist call a “mask­ing” sound, which drowns out the tin­ni­tus and helps the brain pay at­ten­tion to other things.

“The mask­ing sound is usu­ally white noise or na­ture sounds, some­thing like crash­ing waves,” says Flynn. “The the­ory be­hind that is that if you put at­ten­tion on your tin­ni­tus, you’re go­ing to re­al­ize that it’s there all the time. If we have a masker in a hear­ing aid that is pro­vid­ing you with a sound source, then your at­ten­tion is there and away from the tin­ni­tus.”

Re­search has demon­strated that the pa­tient’s brain learns to ig­nore the mask­ing sound and con­cen­tra­tion re­turns to pre-tin­ni­tus lev­els.

How­ever, it is im­por­tant to note that there is no magic bul­let cure for tin­ni­tus.

“It’s un­der­stand­able that peo­ple look for a cure,” Flynn says. “But it’s very im­por­tant to main­tain real­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions. Un­less we can find the root cause, there usu­ally is not a cure.”

But treat­ment can still make a big dif­fer­ence in most cases, she adds.

Hear­ing aids play an im­por­tant role in treat­ing most forms of tin­ni­tus. Con­vinc­ing some pa­tients to wear hear­ing aids was once a ma­jor hurdle, ac­cord­ing to Weis­ger­ber, but re­cent tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances have changed that.

“Peo­ple used to hide the fact that they had hear­ing loss and that they had hear­ing de­vices,” she says. But mod­ern aids are less clunky and more pow­er­ful. Users can man­age their de­vices with a smart­phone.

“Peo­ple are ex­cited about hear­ing aids in a dif­fer­ent way,” says Weis­ger­ber. “I’ve been in se­niors homes and seen them show each other the apps. ‘You need to get a smart­phone!’ They say. They’re not hid­ing them.”

Both Flynn and Weis­ger­ber hope the in­for­ma­tion ses­sions on Novem­ber 22 will help ed­u­cate peo­ple who are suf­fer­ing or may suf­fer from tin­ni­tus.

“There’s a real fear fac­tor when peo­ple don’t know what’s hap­pen­ing,” says Weis­ger­ber. “Peo­ple won­der: Do I have a tu­mor? Do I have some­thing life-threat­en­ing?”

“We can take some of that fear out.”

Tick­ets to the tin­ni­tus in­for­ma­tion ses­sion are free, but reg­is­tra­tion is re­quired. To RSVP, just mes­sage rsvp. hearined­mon­ton@gmail.com or call Hear In Ed­mon­ton at 587-410-7391.

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On Nov. 22 at the Chateau Nova ho­tel in Ed­mon­ton, Hear in Ed­mon­ton will host two free in­for­ma­tion ses­sions on tin­ni­tus, each fea­tur­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion from au­di­ol­o­gist Su­san Flynn. To RSVP, just mes­sage rsvp.hearined­mon­ton@gmail.com or call Hear In Ed­mon­ton at 587-410-7391.

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