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Tinnitus: Frequently Asked Questions

Wednesday, April 25, 2012 - 15:25

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Here are some frequently asked questions related to Tinnitus:

Is there a belief that, because tinnitus is "all in the head," it is not a real problem?

Unfortunately, some physicians may mistakenly believe this to be the case.

  • When tests measuring loudness indicate tinnitus in the decibel range of "only" 4 to 7 dB, some healthcare professionals dismiss the complaints in the mistaken belief that these people really do not have a problem, that they are overreacting, or that the problem is most likely due to some psychological weakness.
  • Despite the fact that an objective measurement of tinnitus is not currently available, people do experience this condition and should be treated.

What does a tinnitus instrument look like?

The tinnitus instrument is a small electronic device built into a standard hearing aid that fits behind the external flap of the ear. This instrument generates a broadband noise that prevents users from experiencing tinnitus.

  • The masker is based on the principle that most individuals with tinnitus tolerate outside noise better than inner head noise. If possible, the frequency or pitch of the tinnitus is identified. Then, a masker is chosen that produces a noise matching this particular frequency as closely as possible.

Why do some middle ear infections cause tinnitus?

Middle ear infections, particularly when they are chronic, may cause tinnitus because of scarring around the tiny bones of the middle ear. In some cases, scarring occurs near the membrane that covers openings between the middle and inner ears.

What about the newspaper and magazine ads that claim there are cures for tinnitus?

Unfortunately, any medical problem for which there is no standard cure or reliable treatment is fair game for those who wish to take advantage of people who are seeking help for their problem. Newspapers and magazines routinely publish advertisements about "tinnitus relief." These ads are usually accompanied by what appears to be convincing testimonials.

  • Those seeking treatment should be aware that, no matter how compelling, testimony is not evidence.
  • Testimonials never indicate how many failed to find relief.
  • These so-called "miracle cures" have not been scientifically tested for safety or effectiveness. There is no approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the US federal agency that regulates drugs and medical devices.

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