Man with tinnitus graphic overlay

First, What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a medical condition characterized by persistent ringing in one or both ears which can only be heard by the affected individual. It has also been described as whistling, hissing, buzzing, or pulsing in the ear. These sounds may come and go, or be constant. The effects range from slight annoyance to severe disruption of everyday life. The American Tinnitus Association estimates that over 50 million Americans have tinnitus.

Hyperacusis is when some sounds which are of normal loudness to others, are perceived as very loud or annoying.

Tinnitus is associated with hearing loss. Commonly, tinnitus is often a result of auditory deprivation, though it can also be caused by other conditions which may require medical evaluation. It is important to understand that in NYS, a hearing aid dispenser is not licensed to treat or manage tinnitus. The only qualified professional to evaluate and offer treatment for tinnitus is an audiologist or physician/medical practitioner. Obtaining a correct diagnosis for the cause of your condition is essential for determining the proper course of tinnitus treatment.

Relief from tinnitus is possible. With the proper diagnosis and consultation from audiologist Sharon Macner, Au.D., you can begin to get back to a normal level of comfort.

The Tinnitus Evaluation: What to Expect

The initial assessment is primarily qualitative: Is the tinnitus bothersome or not? Is it possibly temporary or likely persistent? A hearing evaluation is also performed to determine whether hearing loss is present and what role it plays in your perception of the tinnitus.

After reviewing your medical, audiologic, and tinnitus history and questionnaires, Dr. Macner will assess your hearing and perceptual features of your tinnitus. She’ll review the results with you in depth, including what may be causing the tinnitus, whether your tinnitus warrants a medical evaluation, and whether tinnitus treatment is necessary and/or appropriate.

If treatment recommendations are made, they will stem from published, evidence-based, medical research studies using tinnitus practice guidelines from otology and audiology academies. These unbiased guidelines will assist you in deciding which treatment is best for you. A comprehensive report is sent to your primary care and specialty care providers with your approval.

This initial assessment generally takes 45 to 75 minutes. Because of the extent of information covered, you are welcome to bring any person you choose at your discretion.

Questions We May Ask

  • When did you begin experiencing symptoms?
  • Do you have a known hearing loss condition?
  • What does the noise you hear sound like?
  • Do you hear it in one or both ears?
  • Is the sound continuous or does it come and go?
  • Is the sound worse during the day or night, or is it the same all day long?
  • How loud is the noise?
  • How much does the noise bother you?
  • What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
  • Have you been exposed to loud noises recently?
  • Have you ever had an ear disease or head injury?

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there medications for tinnitus?
Almost all of the “surefire” remedies for tinnitus found on the internet are based on junk science, case studies, or no real evidence at all. But there are some things you can try that might help lessen symptoms, including: limiting exposure to loud noises, lowering your blood pressure, ingesting less salt, and limiting exposure to alcohol.
Can tinnitus be cured?
Current research by neurologists suggests that altering certain areas of the brain that respond to sound — or a lack thereof — may provide relief. Experiments to regrow broken hair cells have also been performed. Regrowth of hair cells means that hearing is restored, which prevents the brain from attempting to fill the void left by a lack of hair cells, ultimately ending tinnitus. Both theories are likely years away from clinical trials, which means a greater period of time until any possible cure hits the market. Curing tinnitus may be possible, but likely not in the near future.
Can tinnitus be directly measured?
Rarely. There is a form of tinnitus referred to as “objective tinnitus” that your doctor can hear. This is typically the result of a blood vessel problem, an inner-ear bone condition, or muscle contractions.
Does tinnitus cause hearing loss?
No. Tinnitus is a symptom of any number of conditions, including hearing loss.
Why is tinnitus worse at night?
In our daily lives, sounds around us typically mask tinnitus to some degree. At night, when things are quiet, there’s less noise and fewer mental distractions. If your tinnitus is stress related, it’s also possible that the cumulative stress of your day has made your symptoms worse.