Tinnitus is a good news/bad news condition. The good news is tinnitus is rarely serious, but the bad news is it can impact significantly your mood, concentration, or sleep patterns.
Suffering from tinnitus is like constantly listening to a radio station that isn’t tuned in, where everything you say, do or hear is set against the background of static noise.
Tinnitus Symptoms and Screening
Screening involves a review of your medical history and an examination of the outer and inner ear. Your doctor then may apply one or more of the following tests:
Hearing (audiological) exam
You sit in a soundproof room wearing earphones. Specific sounds are then played into one ear at a time. You indicate when you can hear the sound, and your results are compared with what is considered normal for your age.
You are asked you to move your eyes, clench and unclench your jaw, and/or move your neck, arms, and legs in certain directions. If your tinnitus changes or worsens when you do these, it may help to identify an underlying problem.
You also may need tests, such as a computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.
Treatment and Prevention for Tinnitus
If a specific cause has been identified, addressing it may eliminate the problem. If not, one or more of these strategies may offer relief.
Identify and avoid triggers
Pinpoint anything that exacerbates the symptoms—for example, drinking caffeinated beverages, taking particular medications, or exposure to noise.
Use hearing aids
If you have hearing loss, wearing a hearing aid may reduce tinnitus by reintroducing ambient sounds that mask it.
Change your reaction
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help recognize negative behaviors and thought patterns related to your tinnitus. You then focus on altering them to reduce any distress from the noises. A similar approach is tinnitus-retraining therapy, which uses counseling and sound therapy to retrain your brain to stop paying attention to the tinnitus.
Seek out other sounds
Sound therapy fills that silence with a constant, neutral sound that distracts you from your tinnitus. Examples include tuning a radio into static sounds, or using a sound machine that plays “white noise,” or relaxing nature sounds.