About Tinnitus

Tinnitus Resources for Des Moines & Central Iowa

Tinnitus, also known as ringing in the ears, affects 50 million Americans each year and can happen to anyone. If you think you might have a problem with tinnitus, take a look at our tinnitus resources and contact Woodard Hearing Centers in Des Moines or any of our other central-Iowa locations for your FREE hearing exam today.

Hearing aids are among the most effective tools for providing relief from tinnitus in individuals with hearing loss. Hearing aids help with tinnitus by:

  • Improving communication reduces stress levels, making it easier to cope with the tinnitus and improve the ability to concentrate
  • Amplifying background sounds reduces the loudness and prominence of tinnitus
  • Providing sound therapy with hearing aids to exercise the auditory portion of the brain and creates stimulation in areas with hearing loss

The Zen is a hearing aid that features a tinnitus and relaxation program. This program incorporates a peaceful sound background for individuals with tinnitus.  The ZEN program is FDA approved for tinnitus.Find more information on the Zen hearing aid here.

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is the perception of sound when no external sound source is present. Patients can experience tinnitus that varies from soft to loud and from low pitched to high and describe their tinnitus in a number of ways, including a buzzing, ringing, white noise, and/or roaring sound. Although these descriptions are typical, there are no specific rules as to how tinnitus is perceived; each experience is different.

What causes tinnitus?

Most commonly, tinnitus is caused by damage to the nerve cells within the inner ear. This damage can occur from a number of sources, like exposure to excessively loud sounds throughout the lifespan, diabetes, and ototoxic medications (medications that damage the ear). Tinnitus can also be caused by something as simple as impacted cerumen (ear wax). In very rare cases, tinnitus can also be caused by other underlying medical conditions.

The perception of tinnitus is a result of changes in the auditory system, which leads to a change in the activity of neurons from the inner ear to the brain. This change in neural activity is interpreted by the brain as sound. For those with tinnitus, the degree of disturbance and awareness is usually caused by the reaction to this perception of tinnitus. The reaction involves attentional and emotional changes, brought on by involvement of other parts of the brain such as the limbic and autonomic nervous systems.

When should I pursue help?

Intervention should be sought if it is affecting your quality of life by reducing your sleep, your performance at work, making life less enjoyable or reducing your ability to concentrate.

Who manages tinnitus?

Several health care professionals work with and can help patients who have tinnitus. The first step is to have an experienced hearing professional visually inspect your ears and evaluate your hearing. Tinnitus is most often related to inner ear damage. If your tinnitus is caused by an underlying medical condition, a physician will be the most appropriate person to treat your condition.

How is tinnitus managed?

There are many management options for tinnitus. Because tinnitus is so individual, you will work with your Audiologist or Physician to determine the right treatment for you. Tinnitus is common in hearing loss patients. In these cases, a hearing aid might be the most effective treatment. If there is no hearing loss or if a hearing aid does not provide sufficient relief, a number of other sound therapy options may be considered (environmental sound devices, noise generators, water fountains). A more recent development is the Neuromonics Tinnitus Treatment, which utilizes modified music to retrain the brain to ignore the tinnitus. This treatment is clinically proven to offer long-term significant relief from tinnitus.

A few interesting facts about tinnitus:

Documentation related to the treatment of tinnitus dates back to the ancient Egyptians. In fact, there is evidence that specific herbal treatments were attempted over 4500 years ago. Unfortunately, modern science has shown us that no herbal treatment is effective in reducing tinnitus.

Substances we consume have also been linked to causing tinnitus. Tonic water contains a substance called quinine. Quinine has a well-documented history of causing tinnitus. Many medications also contain tinnitus-causing substances. When you return for your tinnitus evaluation, remember to bring a comprehensive list of your medication types and dosages. IMPORTANT: Do not discontinue or change your medication without first consulting your prescribing physician.

Stress and fatigue have also been shown to affect your tinnitus. It’s important to make time to relax and work to decrease your stress levels. Of course, this is easier said than done. Working with your Audiologist to find a good support network and devise methods to reduce your stress can help. The American Tinnitus Association (ATA) has a network of support groups and help network volunteers who can help you learn coping skills. Finding a cure for tinnitus is the ATA’s number one priority, supporting tinnitus research is one way you can help speed up progress toward finding a cure.