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Ask The Expert Archive

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Hearing Aids and Tinnitus Archive Questions

Below are Dr. Sherlock-left’s answers to Hearing Aids and Tinnitus questions
received through the Ask the Expert feature.

This content is provided for informational purposes only, and is not intended
to be a substitute for individual medical advice in diagnosing or treating a
health problem. Please consult with your physician about your specific health
care concerns.

Now displaying records 1 to 15 of 19.

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Q : 1

I have a constant buzzing in my right ear, perhaps from a mastoid operation as a youth. Is there anything that can be done to stop this or at least dampen it?

The buzzing sound you are hearing may be tinnitus. The first step is to consult with an otolaryngologist to rule out a treatable condition. In the absence of infection or other pathology, the buzzing may be the result of damage to the sensory structures of the ear. When tinnitus interferes with sleep, concentration, hearing or mood, there are ways to minimize the effects of tinnitus (e.g., Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, Neuromonics, hearing aids, SoundCure).

Q : 2

Can you please provide an estimate as to on average, how many appointments are needed for Neuronomics treatment, and how far they are spaced apart? I want to start the treatment ASAP, but I'm concerned about fitting into my schedule.

We generally see Neuromonics patients for 7 visits: at fitting and post-fitting, 2 weeks, 10 weeks, 6 months, 9 months and 12 months.

Q : 3

My wife is easily woken by soft sounds and it disturbs her sleep. Does this fit the diagnosis of hyperacusis? Is there available treatment for this condition?

Hyperacusis is a sensitivity to louder sounds, such that sounds that are comfortable, but loud, to most individuals might be uncomfortably loud to the person with hyperacusis. There is a variant of reduced sound tolerance called misophonia; this is a reaction to certain kinds of sounds. Individuals who are more reactive to soft sounds may have a different level of sound processing compared to others; it's not necessarily pathological.

Q : 4

My brother suffered nerve damage and has constant ringing in one ear. Six years ago, he chose not to have the nerves deadened to avoid total deafness, but the ringing is becoming unbearable and spreading to the other ear. Does he have any options?

Although tinnitus is a side effect of hearing loss, having the nerve severed does not actually eliminate the tinnitus, so it's good that this was not done. Tinnitus is a problem when it interferes with sleep, concentration or mood. There are therapies that are helpful in reducing the intrusiveness of tinnitus so that it does not affect sleep, concentration or mood. You might try looking for a tinnitus specialist in your area who has experience with Tinnitus Retraining Therapy and/or Neuromonics.

Q : 5

I am scheduled for a BAHA implant and the nurse asked me what color device I wanted. Can I color my hair once the implant is in place?

Yes, you can still color your hair. Generally, darker devices are better camouflaged than lighter devices.

Q : 6

I think I may have tinnitus and hyperacusis from a loud night club I went to. Are there ways to treat hyperacusis and tinnitus?

For individuals who are experiencing trouble with sleep, concentration or mood, there are ways to diminish the effects of tinnitus. A careful evaluation will distinguish between hyperacusis and other forms of reduced sound tolerance. Correct identification of hyperacusis is essential for proper treatment.

Q : 7

Is there a less invasive hearing loss treatment than a cochlear implant? My son has lost all hearing in his left ear and has over 110 in his right.

A cochlear implant is indicated for profound hearing loss. Many individuals benefit significantly from a cochlear implant compared to traditional amplification. The only alternative to a CI for better hearing is hearing aids, which may not be beneficial with profound hearing loss.

Q : 8

I've had tinnitus for about two months. I've seen two audiologists and ENTs. They said I had very little hearing loss, only with high pitch. They don't think it is going to be permanent, but I am concerned. Is there anything I can do?

Tinnitus is generally a side effect of hearing loss, even when the hearing loss is minimal and/or restricted to the high frequency region. Tinnitus is just a symptom. Most people notice their tinnitus less after a few months. If your tinnitus starts to affect your sleep, concentration, or mood, you may benefit from a tinnitus consultation with a tinnitus specialist. In the meantime, protect your hearing from loud noise. You may also find it helpful to play low level sound (e.g., white noise or a sound spa with rainfall or ocean waves) in very quiet rooms so that the tinnitus is not as noticeable.

Q : 9

My 5-year-old son is missing the external and middle ear. His hearing is around 30 percent less than normal, but his cochlea is normal. Are there options to help him?

People with normal cochleas and absent middle and outer ears generally can benefit from a bone-conduction hearing aid or bone-conduction implant. Implants are generally available once a child is 6 to 8 years old. Ask your doctor about the Baha implant or the Oticon Ponto.

Q : 10

Can the devices be adjusted to accommodate for tinnitus that fluctuates? Mine is louder on some days, less on others. Also will they still work if the pitch of the tinnitus changes?

The volume of tinnitus devices is adjustable. We expect that the volume used on any given day will fluctuate, because as the brain habituates to the tinnitus, the volume needed to mix with the tinnitus changes. Tinnitus devices are generally not customized to the pitch of tinnitus. The key is to ensure that the sound quality of the devices is not bothersome.

Q : 11

Does the UMD clinic help patients with misophonia?

Yes. We start with a thorough evaluation of the auditory system to differentiate hyperacusis, misophonia and phonophobia, then develop a treatment plan based on the patient's report of activity limitations in conjunction with the test results.

Q : 12

My neuromonics device keeps giving me errors. It either says "no card" or that it's resetting. It is doing it up to several times a day. What should I do?

Remove the plastic panel from the bottom of the device and remove the SD card for a moment. Replace and see if this fixes the problem.

Q : 13

My son is a music major and he has tinnitus. He wants to prevent the hearing loss associated with playing in a brass section and worsening of his tinnitus. He consulted an otolaryngologist and was told that his hearing is excellent. The doctor did not perform any additional tests to determine the nature of his tinnitus. My mother, brother, and I all share this condition, so I suspect heredity has something to do with it. He has some questions about tinnitus and may want to participate in Step 1 of your program. Could you refer him to an otolaryngologist who would know what tests you require for an appointment, or provide the names of those tests to us so that he can be sure he has everything he needs to make an appointment?

If previous testing has indicated normal hearing sensitivity, then additional testing is not necessary prior to a Stage 1 appointment. The primary purpose of the Stage 1 appointment is to help people understand the underlying mechanisms of tinnitus and how to manage intrusive tinnitus. He may benefit from getting musician's earplugs. These earplugs have a filter to maintain the frequency response of the music (as opposed to altering the response like a standard foam or silicone earplug would). Musician's earplugs cost around $70 to $90 each and are available from audiologists.

Q : 14

I have difficulty hearing two out of four people in a conversation. Is a cheap hearing aid likely to damage my hearing further? Any studies?

A properly adjusted hearing aid will not cause damage to hearing, regardless of how much was paid for it.

Q : 15

I have tinnitus. My issue is that when I take medication, i.e., Ibuprofen, the tinnitus becomes intense and very painful. Do you think the hearing and balance center could help me?

Tinnitus is a symptom, often associated with changes in inner ear function. Certain medications can alter inner ear function just enough to cause changes in tinnitus. The tinnitus itself is not harmful, but the reactions to it can manifest as a sensation of pain. The Tinnitus and Hyperacusis Program helps people with tinnitus habituate to it so that it no longer has an effect on day-to-day living.

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