Are you struggling with ringing in the ears? Sometimes it is described as buzzing or whooshing. If so, you may be dealing with tinnitus, the medical term for ringing in the ears. More specifically, tinnitus is an abnormal perception of a sound which is reported by patients that is unrelated to an external source of stimulation. Tinnitus is actually a very common disorder, affecting 1 in 5 people. It may be intermittent, constant or fluctuant, mild or severe, and may vary from a low roaring sensation to a high pitched type of sound. It may or may not be associated with a hearing loss. Tinnitus is also classified further into subjective tinnitus (a noise perceived by the patient alone) or objective (a noise perceived by the patient as well as by another listener). Subjective tinnitus is quite common and objective tinnitus is relatively uncommon.
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What To Expect From a Tinnitus Evaluation
When dealing with tinnitus it is important to remember that tinnitus is a symptom and not a condition in of itself. Much like a headache or other pain, the symptom of tinnitus is caused by something else. The typically subjective nature of tinnitus makes it difficult to record and quantify. However, a properly trained audiologist can zero in on the degree, quality, and ultimately the root cause of tinnitus by performing a complete tinnitus evaluation.
Measurement of Tinnitus
A tinnitus evaluation is comprised of multiple parts. It begins with a complete audiological examination, which includes a full hearing test. This will help to check for obstructions, hearing loss, and determine the overall health of the ear. Also, in order to measure the degree and quality of the tinnitus you will undergo tests for pitch-matching, loudness-matching, loudness sensitivity, and also a test to determine the maskability and inhibition of the tinnitus. Dr. Wikoff will also do a complete medical review to determine if there are any underlying conditions that could be related to the tinnitus. After the tinnitus evaluation is complete Dr. Wikoff will make a personalized recommendation on how to treat the tinnitus.
Treatment of Tinnitus
Dr. Wikoff takes a holistic and multi-faceted approach to treating tinnitus based on scientifically proven techniques. She also works with other professionals in the medical community to provide a broad range of expertise in the areas of otolaryngology, neurology, physical therapy, and psychology. Not all tinnitus cases are alike, but all do have commonalities.
The most common cause for tinnitus is sensorineural hearing loss. This is why the hearing test is part of the tinnitus evaluation. When the ear stops hearing certain frequencies because of a hearing loss, the brain will often times try to compensate by causing you to hear those frequencies when they are not actually present. This in many cases is the ringing that you hear. That means that treating a hearing loss will most commonly ameliorate the symptoms of tinnitus after the mind has had time to acclimate to hearing correctly again.
In some cases however the tinnitus is not related to a hearing loss. In these cases there are other options that Dr. Wikoff will discuss with you. One possibility would be small device called a masker. It can be worn alone in the ear or be built into a hearing aid if there is hearing loss. The masker generates a noise which masks or covers the specific frequency and tone of ringing experienced by the patient. This methodology is successful for many patients who don't find relief from hearing aids alone.
Biofeedback training is another effective method for curing tinnitus in some patients. It consists of exercises in which the patient learns to control the various parts of the body and relax the muscles. When a patient is able to accomplish this type of relaxation, tinnitus generally subsides. Most patients have expressed that the biofeedback offered some to complete relief from the symptoms of tinnitus.
Other lifestyle measures to control tinnitus can help as well. For instance, making every attempt to avoid anxiety, as this will typically increase the symptoms of tinnitus. You should make every attempt to obtain adequate rest and avoid over fatigue. The use of nerve stimulants is generally recommended be avoided. Therefore, excessive amounts of coffee and smoking should be avoided when possible.
Why Should You See Dr. Wikoff?
Dr. Wikoff has been successfully diagnosing and treating tinnitus for 10 years. She has dedicated her life to the study and care of hearing. She holds an undergraduate degree in Speech and Hearing Science from the University of Maryland. She also received her Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) degree from Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine’s Program in Audiology and Communication Sciences. Additionally Dr. Wikoff is on the board of directors at the American Tinnitus Association. She has attended multiple courses and workshops specifically on tinnitus, including the International Tinnitus Research Initiative in Valencia, Spain. She is a trained in Neuromonics, received the American Academy of Audiology Scholar Award 2014 - 2015, and she is a member of the Tinnitus Practitioners Association.
If you are in the metro-Atlanta area and are suffering from tinnitus, don't wait any longer to call or fill out the form above and make an appointment to see Dr. Wikoff.
Melissa Wikoff Au.D.