May 17, 2016 -- Erin Wright
May 16-20 is National Tinnitus Awareness week.
A few years ago, our clinic was part of a pilot project testing new equipment to try to sound match tinnitus. In this study people used iPads to create different sounds together to try to recreate their tinnitus sound. It was through participating in this exercise that my empathy for those with tinnitus increased a hundred fold. Some of the sounds that people were creating were like fingernails on a chalkboard combined with a cat's meow. It was present constantly and the volume they had recreated was surprisingly loud to me. I had often thought of tinnitus being a high frequency constant pure tone that was for the most part innocuous. Or that has been the type of tinnitus I had experienced after leaving a loud concert. The sound that some people manage all day is exhausting. Tinnitus is exhausting. Truly. The cortisol being produced by the body in reaction to the autonomic nervous system's flight or fight response has to be metabolized by the adrenal glands which can lead to fatigue.
The frustrating thing is how people for years have been told by their doctors just to live with it. In fact, THERE IS HELP!!! We have successfully managed tinnitus in about 85% of cases that come into the clinic. There are products and counseling strategies that we can give patients as tools to learn to habituate the tinnitus.
If you, or someone you know has tinnitus, the number one most important thing is to know that there is help, and to see an Audiologist to have a proper diagnostic evaluation to determine the cause of the tinnitus. The cause is critical to the solution.