Hey guys, about the age of 3 is when I started to tell my parents about the ringing in my ears. I have been okay dealing with it for most of my life but recently it has gotten worse (I’m about to turn 19) to where I cannot ignore it and it causes me pain. I went to my regular doctor and an audiologist and they confirmed that I don’t have hearing loss, infection, or fluid in my middle ear. They recommended tinnitus maskers but I’m unsure if they’re worth the money or if my insurance will cover it. Does this sound similar to anyone else’s experiences? I’d appreciate any help if possible
Several possible approaches come to mind. If you think your regular doctor and audiologist were thorough, masking is a reasonable approach. Assuming you have a smartphone, you should be able to download masking sounds. These basically cover up your tinnitus. Tinnitus is generally only noticable when it’s quiet, so if you can cover it up, it’s harder to notice. There is also stuff online that helps you determine what frequency your tinnitus is at and can emphasize frequencies near that frequency which some claim can help. For many, the best way to treat tinnitus is to ignore it. Focussing on it makes it considerably worse. (Mine is screaming at me as I type this.)
If you don’t feel like your physician and audiologist were very thorough and feel kind of “blown off,” requesting to see an ENT is not unreasonable.
Your call. Lots of options. And yes, there are many people out there with tinnitus.
Avoid silence, treat your anxiety with CBT therapy.
For my appointment with the audiologist, I was told the entire test/meeting would take an hour. My test lasted 10 minutes and we talked about the results for 5 minutes. I was told I had no hearing loss but that one of my ears is worse than the other? The whole appointment seemed bizarre to me but I feel like I may try to see an ENT because I am still left with questions. In the mean time and if I can’t get any further professional help, I will definitely be using the online resources. Thank you for your advice!
I’d agree that this is likely a decent way to treat, but aren’t there possible (admittedly rare) physical causes of tinnitus (tumor or pulsatile) that should be ruled out? Perhaps they can be ruled out by physical exam and history, but OP deserves an explanation of what’s going on.
Yes, by all means, rule things out. I’m not a medical doctor. But a sixteen year old acoustic neuroma seems unlikely. The most common outcome is that it is benign and the exact cause will never be found (e.g. history of childhood infection, that time they hit their head when they were three, some random acoustic trauma at some point, etc.), and it’s getting loud lately because of acute life stress and/or increased anxiety/depression.
A hearing test and discussion can certainly take an hour+, but when everything is normal and runs on rails if can be very fast.
Pain is odd though. What sort of pain, where? One ear or two? What does the ringing sound like? Do you clench your jaw at night? What has changed in your life recently?
I check in on a tinnitus sufferer’s forum because there’s a quite active discussion of Frequency Therapeutics. Probably way too much discussion actually. Many of those people see a hearing loss treatment as their salvation and they follow the small snippets of available news on Frequency Therapeutics obsessively. Anyway, a strong theme is their dissatisfaction (bordering on paranoia) with audiologists. Audiologists tell them there is nothing wrong with their hearing and they won’t accept it. They themselves believe that the audiologists are not testing enough frequencies or that they have something called ‘hidden hearing loss’ (which seems to have a number of possible meanings).
I’ve tried to suggest that they shouldn’t be so invested in an outcome that is not certain and may be years away and they should explore ways of living with the condition. CBT and mindfulness training seem to help many people. This advice doesn’t always go over well. There’s a certain mindset… I sometimes wonder which comes first- the condition or the mindset?
Sorry op, no direct experience or insights. My tinnitus is mild and doesn’t bother me much. If you’re looking for a way to avoid silence, I have an Android app called ‘White Noise’ that works well. The noise can be anything from white/brown/pink noise to recorded soundscapes. Rain on the roof, wind in pine trees, breaking waves. That kind of stuff. You could feed it to Bluetooth speakers or a dlna-enabled sound system.
Edit: I was reading (somewhere) about a guy who got a lot of relief from his tinnitus through mindfulness training but it wasn’t enough. He then used a machine that puts out a noise matched to his tinnitus. This habituates the subject to his or her tinnitus. I think he was putting the machine on at night while he slept. He was saying he just uses it occasionally now for a bit of an habituation top up. I’ve just noticed that mdb mentioned something similar. Does this sound like the tinnitus masker you mentioned?
I my experience it can be both. People predisposed to worry often have more trouble managing their tinnitus, but if the tinnitus came on with some sort of trauma (head injury, divorce) it gets wound up with a lot of other emotions and can be pretty hard to manage.
Interesting that that group is so focussed on Frequency Therapeutics. Tinnitus may start in the ear, but it is maintained by the brain such that you can cut right through the auditory nerve and wake up deaf but still have tinnitus. I wouldn’t assume that any hearing loss corrected by Frequency Therapeutics would necessarily resolve tinnitus. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if that sort of treatment tended to CAUSE tinnitus. Even if they can regrow hair cells, I doubt they would be regrowing them in perfect correlation with the normal developmental neural organization of the auditory system, and there’s quite a bit of speculation that tinnitus is caused by disrupted neural organization. I agree with you that those people should be managing their reaction to their tinnitus now and not pinning their hopes on the future.
I think I should also apologize to the op for having a low-compassion day. It’s been about four years now since mine was really bad, and I’m probably starting to forget how unpleasant that was. But I’m not kidding about something going on in their life. Tinnitus volume percept is very closely tied to physical/emotional state, and it’s very normal for it to get louder if you are feeling low for some reason.
I agree that a knowledgable provider can assess things pretty quickly, but part of the job is communicating that adequately to the patient. Some are really good at that and some not so good. I am struck that when I think about my tinnitus how damned loud it is, but normally I’m not even aware.
Yes, certainly true. Tinnitus management is not a widely shared skillset among medical providers of all types, I don’t think. Their primary focus is whether it is a symptom of something else that needs medical follow-up. Once that’s ruled out a common response is just, “You’re fine, go home and learn to live with it,” without much thought to the psychological aspects. Sometimes they can actually make things worse because the first thing they say is “well, let’s make sure it’s not a tumor!” and the person with the tinnitus spends a few MONTHS thinking “oh god, I might have a brain tumor” before they get an MRI and have it ruled out. The reality is that it is very uncommon for it to be caused by a tumor, but those months of worrying about serve to make the tinnitus worse. Often, just a little bit of education about the causes of tinnitus, the expected trajectory, and some basic management options is hugely helpful. But this isn’t something that is widely taught in medical school, nor even consistently taught to audiologists and less so to whatever the various names of hearing instrument diploma courses.
Good point about the potential stress worrying that it might be a tumor, but that might happen anyway if somebody doesn’t get much of an explanation and Googles it. I do have a question for you. Is it accurate that tinnitus with normal hearing could be taken as a warning sign to protect one’s hearing? In other words, are people with tinnitus and normal hearing more at risk of hearing loss than those without tinnitus? That would be my “gut” feeling, but wondering if there’s any truth to it.
Hard to say. Certainly your ears ring after you go to a loud concert and that is a sign of damage. But tinnitus can be caused by so many other things that it’s probably not an accurate enough measure of vulnerability.