Columnists

Tinnitus Explained

Issue 47.12

Tinnitus (pronounced TIN-i-tus or ti-NIGHT-us- either is correct) is hearing noises in your ear in the absence of corresponding external sound. Most people hear a “ringing” in their ears but others may also have ticking, roaring, humming, buzzing or even hear a song.

Many things can cause tinnitus including medications, neurological damage (such as multiple sclerosis) or even wax in your ear. Some tinnitus, like hearing your pulse, can be an indicator of other medical problems, such as poor or altered blood flow. However, the overwhelming majority of people with tinnitus have it because of a hearing loss, which is caused by damage to the hair cells in the inner ear. Studies show that individuals, who have hearing loss because of a lot of noise exposure (guns, construction work, music etc.) tend to be more likely to have tinnitus, as well as have more severe tinnitus than those whose hearing loss was caused by age or genetics alone.

Though tinnitus can be difficult to fully measure, a complete hearing evaluation is the first step in diagnosis and treatment because most people can “match” their tinnitus to the areas where they have the most hearing damage.

There is currently no cure for most tinnitus; however, there are things one can do to manage it. Typically, treating the hearing loss, the most common underlying cause of tinnitus, with hearing aids will help lessen the severity or person’s ability to detect the tinnitus. Sound therapies and “tinnitus retraining” programs are available to help decrease the brain’s focus on the tinnitus. Stress reducing and/or meditation therapies have also shown to be beneficial. Other forms of treatment may include modifying a person’s diet to decrease salt, caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Because tinnitus has been shown to get worse as hearing loss progresses, stress increases, or oxygen level and blood flow are decreased, anything that helps to prevent those things, can also help prevent or reduce tinnitus. If the tinnitus is not bothersome during the day, but interferes with sleeping, a sound generator, or putting the clock radio to “white noise” can often help. 

Dr. Natalie Johnson has been in the St. George area for the past 3 years. She graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology from Brigham Young University in 2004 and was conferred her Doctor of Audiology degree from A.T. Still University in August 2008. She loves the outdoors and recently enjoyed a humanitarian trip to Kenya. Dr. Johnson specializes in:

Digital Hearing Aid Sales, Service and Counseling Specialist

Earmold and Hearing Protection Specialist

Diagnostic Medical Hearing Assessments for Adults and Children

Cochlear implant mapping

BAHA Fitting and Programming Specialist

Balance & Dizziness Testing and Treatment

Vestibular Rehabilitation Specialist

Intraoperative Neurologic Monitoring Specialist

Dr. Natalie Johnson is a Clinical Audiologist at Advanced Hearing and Balance Specialists and can be contacted at 435-216-5077.

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