March 18, 2014
Much has been written, here and elsewhere, about treatments for tinnitus, the often bothersome perception of phantom sounds. These sounds are reported as ringing, buzzing, hissing, humming or other essentially steady sounds in one or both ears. In our experience the problem is not the noise itself, it’s the patient’s reaction to the noise, or the degree to which he or she actively listens to the sounds. Tinnitus turns out to be a problem of “hypermonitoring”
Many patients report they rarely pay attention to their tinnitus. They typically hear it more during quiet times but may not regard the sounds as worthy of their attention. The brain can “let go of” or ignore stimulation it does not consider important enough to monitor. This is partly due to a safety mechanism whereby we monitor our environment for potential threats. Sounds that are well known to us as non-threatening are not given high priority. Think of the hum of a refrigerator vs the strident sound of a rattlesnake. Which sound deserves more attention? In fact, we are more likely to pay attention to an appliance when it is malfunctioning and producing an unusual noise. It is interesting that many patients liken their tinnitus to cricket chirping, yet they do not complain of real crickets during the summer. Also a lighted candle can be dominant in an otherwise dark room, but seems insignificant in a well-lit room. This demonstrates how our environment and expectations influence our perceptions.
At Clear Choice Hearing and Balance our tinnitus treatments safely promote the process of habituation. In this manner the tinnitus can eventually become no more threatening than a refrigerator. This process typically takes time when protocols are applied consistently, but studies have found that it is effective 70-90% of the time when compared to older methods such as “masking”. Other studies have examined the factors contributing to success of treatment, and the most important factor was patient follow-through, particularly concerning devices or products that have been recommended. For example, patients with significant hearing loss should wear hearing aids. Additionally, other devices, such as the Serenade® device by SoundCure™, have been used in treatment. High compliance correlated to good success. Poor compliance did not.
This process may take the form of a gradual lessening of awareness at all times, but often the result is shrinking “windows” of time when the tinnitus is bothersome. Either way thousands of patients across the world have learned from experience that a “cure” is not necessary if the sounds of tinnitus become just another benign part of your auditory world.
Contact us and let us explain further and help put you on a clear path to good hearing and ear health.