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Hope for people who suffer from tinnitus

June 8, 2011

Staff Report

Hearing aids can offer hope of better hearing for people who suffer from tinnitus, according to Donald R. Kleindl, BC-HIS, ACA, MCAP, director of Professional Hearing & Audiology Clinics. Kleindl states, “Many of our patients have reported significant relief from their tinnitus while using hearing aids.”

These findings are particularly significant in light of research conducted by the nonprofit educational organization, The Better Hearing Institute (BHI). BHI research found that nearly 9 million American adults with tinnitus and hearing loss have not sought a solution to their hearing problem, because they mistakenly believe they cannot be helped.

Tinnitus is a persistent ringing, buzzing or humming with no external source in one or both ears. It can be intermittent or constant. For many people who suffer from it, tinnitus has had a debilitating effect on their quality of life. Approximately 50 million Americans suffer from tinnitus. Twelve million Americans find the problem is severe enough to affect their everyday lives.

Tinnitus is most frequently caused by exposure to loud noises, an injury to the head or ear, the use of certain medications, or it can develop as a natural part of the aging process. However, many causes of tinnitus remain unknown.

“Tinnitus can have a direct impact on a person’s well-being; it can affect not only their hearing, but also their ability to sleep and to concentrate,” according to Kleindl.

Sergei Kochkin, Ph.D., BHI’s executive director, and Professor Richard Tyler, Ph.D., editor of The Consumer Handbook on Tinnitus (Auricle Ink, 2008), say: “The symptoms of tinnitus influence basic life functions such as socialization and relaxation. In severe cases, it can interfere with the individual’s ability to perform adequately on the job, or contribute to psychological disorders such as depression, suicide ideation, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and anger.”

Despite the high prevalence of tinnitus and the disruption it can cause, only a small number of sufferers seek help.

“No one should ever ignore persistent tinnitus,” Kleindl says. “A comprehensive hearing examination can help determine if medical intervention is needed and/or hearing aids might help. Many people with tinnitus also have a hearing loss, as well.”

A recent large-scale survey of the U.S. hearing-impaired population, by the BHI, showed 39 percent of the people who had neglected their hearing loss indicated they had not sought help for their hearing loss specifically because they had tinnitus.

“Research shows that untreated hearing loss has an overall negative effect on an individual’s quality of life,” Kleindl added. “So an individual with both untreated hearing loss and tinnitus experiences greater difficulty than an individual with just tinnitus or just hearing loss.”

Experts believe hearing aids can help tinnitus by improving communication and reducing stress, thereby making it easier to accept or cope with the condition. By amplifying background sound or producing background ambient noise, hearing aids are believed to reduce the loudness or prominence of tinnitus. Kleindl says: “A new type of hearing instrument, called the open-fit, may be particularly useful in helping relieve tinnitus. The open-fit hearing aid can reduce the effects of the tinnitus ringing sensation while still allowing sounds from the outside to pass into the ear.”

In addition to being evaluated by a hearing health professional to explore the use of hearing instruments to alleviate tinnitus, the American Academy of Otolaryngology (AAO-HNS) recommends these additional tips for minimizing tinnitus:

-Avoid exposure to loud sounds and noises.

– Get your blood pressure checked. If it is high, get your doctor’s help to control it.

– Decrease your intake of salt. Salt impairs blood circulation.

– Avoid stimulants such as coffee, tea, cola and tobacco.

– Get adequate rest and avoid fatigue.

“We believe that if hearing health professionals can provide effective treatment for tinnitus, they also can be instrumental in motivating people to concurrently treat their hearing loss,” Kochkin said. “This would have a double impact in improving the quality of life for millions of Americans.”

If you have tinnitus or suspect you have a hearing loss, Professional Hearing & Audiology Clinics is offering a free comprehensive hearing examination. Professional Hearing & Audiology Clinics, 1415 E. State St., Ste. A1, Rockford, can be contacted by calling (815) 964-3131.

From the June 8-14, 2011 issue

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