I was talking to the mother of a son who has both hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing ears) the other day and she was telling me that they had gone to four doctors to try to treat his tinnitus before someone finally sent them to an audiologist. She had some basic questions, as do many people who experience ringing ears. Here are some of our most basic questions and answers about causes, treatments, etc.
Q. What is tinnitus?
A. Tinnitus is the perception of sound where none exists. Can be a ringing, wooshing, roaring, or clicking noise. Tinnitus can be a temporary condition, lasting only a few minutes, or it can be a long term condition which can last indefinitely.
Q. What causes tinnitus?
A. There are many causes including some medications, head trauma, and nerve damage (hearing loss.) It can also accompany sinus or ear infections, abundance of ear wax, certain kinds of tumors, and even jaw mis-alignment.
Q. What are the treatments?
A. Tinnitus treatment depends on the cause, which is determined by a series of exams by an audiologist. Depending on the cause of the tinnitus, they may recommend Neuromonics, SoundCure, tinnitus retraining therapy, sound masking therapy, or hearing aids. Audiologists will also counsel the patient in various coping therapies often including avoiding caffeine, limiting sodium and alcohol, and getting enough rest. For severe cases, we have been most successful with the Neuromonics treatment.
Q. Does insurance cover any of this?
A. Most insurances will cover the exams. We have not had any insurances pay for the Neuromonics treatment yet—they consider it experimental, even though it is FDA approved. Some insurances will pay for some of the other devices—depending on the insurance and the evaluation results.
Q. How much does tinnitus treatment cost?
A. Tinnitus treatment ranges between a few hundred dollars to five thousand—depending on which treatment program is prescribed.
Q. How effective is Neuromonics?
A.Neuromonics is the only FDA-cleared, clinically proven medical device with documented long-term relief of severe or chronic tinnitus. A recent study shows that more than 90% of patients who use Neuromonics experience a significant reduction in tinnitus. Timpanogos Hearing & Balance is one of only 4 providers in Utah to provide Neuromonics, and we are the only clinic in the Intermountain West to provide Neuromonics, SoundCure, and TRT. (tinnitus retraining therapy). The following is a chart from Neuromonics showing the how it compares to other treatments.
Q. How does Neuromonics work?
A. It works by desensitizing your tinnitus perception. You wear a device like a small music player for a number of hours a day, listening to soothing music that is customized to your unique profile. Essentially, the treatment enables the brain to create alternative pathways so tinnitus is no longer perceived.