4 Questions to Ask Your Audiologist About Tinnitus
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Do you have a loud ringing, clicking, buzzing or whirring in your ears? Is it a sound only you can hear? Does it keep you up at night or make it hard to fall asleep? Is your ability to concentrate hampered by the sound?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you may be suffering from tinnitus. Tinnitus is a symptom, it is not a disease. It can be temporary or permanent. The affects can range from mildly annoying to a serious reduction in the quality of life. If you have tinnitus, it’s time to talk to the audiologist. Ask your audiologist these questions about tinnitus to better understand the condition.
1. What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus causes you to perceive sounds that aren’t present in your environment. There are different types of tinnitus. There is subjective and objective. With objective tinnitus, the audiologist may be able to hear the sound with special instruments. With subjective tinnitus, only you can hear the sound. Ask the audiologist what type of tinnitus you have.
2. What is the cause of my tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a symptom of an underlying disease or condition. The causes are numerous. They can be from high blood pressure, ototoxic drugs, injuries to the head or neck, stress, depression, Meniere’s disease, tumor, hearing loss, exposure to loud noise and many other diseases and conditions. If the audiologist tells you that you have tinnitus, be sure to ask the reason.
3. Will it go away or do I need treatment?
Some types of tinnitus are temporary and will go away in a short period of time without treatment. Since stress can cause tinnitus, it is important not to less tinnitus cause you stress. This will only make the tinnitus worse. Other types of tinnitus go away when the underlying condition is resolved. For example, tinnitus caused by high blood pressure, it will stop when blood pressure is returned to normal levels. If the tinnitus is caused by NSAIDs like aspirin, substituting another medicine may stop the tinnitus.
4. What treatments are most effective?
One of the most common causes of tinnitus is undiagnosed hearing loss. Hearing loss causes the brain to be starved for auditory input, and in its absence, starts to create input on its own. Once the hearing loss is addressed the brain receives adequate auditory input again and stops creating the phantom noises. In a nutshell, the brain is once again busy enough with the signals from the environment to augment its work load by producing false signals.
Your audiologist may recommend masking devices that create white noise to minimize the tinnitus. Cognitive behavior therapy and biofeedback are also tinnitus treatments. Because the causes of tinnitus are so varied, the range of treatment is varied as well.
Questions the audiologist may ask you
In diagnosing the cause of your tinnitus, your audiologist will ask you questions. Be prepared to answer the following:
- Have you been exposed to a loud noise like a gunshot or explosion?
- Are you exposed to loud noise at work?
- Have you had an accident that injured your head or neck?
- Do you take over the counter supplements or herbal remedies?
- What prescription drugs do you take?
- Do you drink caffeinated beverages?
- What are your stress levels?
- Do you smoke?
The answers to these questions, as well as your medical history and vital signs, will help the audiologist determine the cause of your tinnitus and prescribe a course of treatment.