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Tinnitus is the perception of sounds - often described as ringing, buzzing, humming, roaring, or whistling - that are heard in the ears but are not present in the external environment.

How common is Tinnitus?

Over 50 million Americans experience tinnitus to some degree,  For most people, tinnitus is a mild annoyance and may be temporary. However, more than 2 million American adults (1 to 2 percent of the population), experience severe, chronic tinnitus.

Because tinnitus can be a symptom of a more serious condition, any prolonged experience of tinnitus should be evaluated by a medical doctor.

What impact does it have?

Chronic tinnitus can affect a person's work, family, and social life.  It can interfere with sleep, make it difficult to concentrate or to relax, increase sensitivity to loud sounds and can lead to anxiety and depression.

What causes Tinnitus?

Tinnitus can be caused by a variety of factors and each individual case is unique.  Tinnitus typically occurs in the auditory system as a result of hearing loss.  In a small proportion of cases, tinnitus arises from a condition that requires medical or surgical intervention.

Once the tinnitus signal is generated in the auditory system, another part of the brain (the limbic system) attaches an emotional response to it.  Similar to the "feeling" you get when you scratch your fingernails down a blackboard, tinnitus is more than just a perceived sound. Tinnitus can trigger anxiety and stress responses in the body which, in addition to the limbic system, involves the autonomic nervous system.

Is there help for those with tinnitus?

YES!  Often people who have tinnitus notice it the most at night when it's quiet as they are trying to go to sleep.  Setting a bedside radio to a very soft level either on a station or between statioms so it will generate a white noise can help reduce or eliminate the tinnitus to help you go to sleep.  Sometimes the sound of a low speed fan will have the same effect.  There are also soud generators available at retail stores or on-line that have a selection of relaxing sounds like ocean waves or rain that can be helpful to use at your bedside to reduce your perception of tinnitus and help you sleep.

If you have tinnitus and hearing loss, often hearing aids alone are enough to reduce or eliminate the tinnitus.  If there is no hearing loss, sometimes masking devices, which look like and are worn like hearing aids, are able to reduce your perception of the tinnitus by masking it with narrow or wide band noise.  There are now hearing aids that have built-in masking devices to help people hear and help control their tinnitus if the amplification from the hearing aids alone are not enough to control it. 

Neuromonics Tinnitus Treatment is another method that can reduce or eliminate tinnitus.   It is a six to eight month treatment program administered by an audiologist that addresses the underlying neurological basis of tinnitus.  Daily treatment is delivered via the Neuromonics Oasis™ device - a patented, lightweight medical device that looks like an MP3 player and is customized for each patient's individual hearing and tinnitus profile.  For more information, go to this link:   www.neuromonics.com