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The Hearing Clinic
The Hearing Clinic is a family-owned, private audiology practice. We provide a friendly, patient-focused approach in a warm atmosphere with a simple goal: individualized solutions for individual people.
Cherry Creek
90 Madison St #201 Denver, CO 80206
Phone: (303) 322-0054
Wheat Ridge
Formerly Mountain Peak Hearing Associates
4045 Wadsworth Blvd #110 Wheat Ridge, CO 80033
Phone: (303) 425-3344
Colorado Springs
Broadmoor Audiology
1685 Briargate Blvd. Colorado Springs, CO 80920
Phone: (719) 388-1404
Golden
Formerly Mountain Peak Hearing Associates
1030 Johnson Road, Suite 350 Golden, CO 80401
Phone: (303) 502-5129
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How Do We Treat Tinnitus? - The Hearing Clinic
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How Do We Treat Tinnitus?

Effectively Treat Tinnitus

Tinnitus is an unwanted sound often described as ringing, clicking, or chirping in the ears. It is your hearing nerve telling your brain that there is a sound even though there is no “actual” sound. There are many possible causes for the unwanted stimulus: prolonged exposure to loud noise, hearing loss, medications, diet and even stress. To effectively treat tinnitus we need deal with how the brain is dealing with this annoying sound.

Anxiety and the Limbic System

Anxiety and the Limbic SystemThe limbic system controls stress, anxiety, blood pressure, and related functions. When an unexpected stimulus pops up, the limbic system gets to work making sure you’re ready for whatever comes. When you’re driving down the freeway and see a police officer on the side of the road with a radar gun and you tense up, that’s your limbic system in action. Now imagine feeling that tense all the time, and you get a feel for what tinnitus is like for many people.

There’s a foreign ringing sound, and because it’s foreign you focus on it. Once you focus on the ringing it sounds more prominent, and therefore draws more of your attention. The increased attention only reinforces the annoying character of the sound, and makes it more distracting. Thus begins the self-reinforcing cycle of tinnitus and annoyance or anxiety. Our tinnitus treatment plans focus on breaking this cycle.

Tinnitus Masking

Tinnitus MaskingThe oldest and simplest way of dealing with tinnitus is to cover it up with other sound. Generally speaking we use a white or pink noise, which sounds like a pleasant static in the background. In recent years tinnitus masking has been built into hearing aids, so that those with hearing loss and tinnitus can treat both at once. You can also take a hearing aid and turn off the microphones so that they become exclusively tinnitus maskers that are tiny and portable and can be worn all day long without interfering with your ability to hear other sounds in the environment.

Tinnitus Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT)Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT)

While maskers work well, they do not address the limbic system or do anything to change the way one responds to tinnitus when it is present. Tinnitus retraining therapy utilizes sound to treat the limbic system so that it no longer responds to tinnitus as it used to, making tinnitus much easier to live with and restoring a sense of normalcy. The general approach is to play a relaxing sound such as ocean noise, baroque music or anything you find pleasant and relaxing. Play the sound at a volume that does not quite cover up the tinnitus, so that you are hearing both at the same time. What happens is that the limbic system relaxes from the pleasant stimulus, and because you can hear the tinnitus while this is happening, the limbic system learns not to tense up just because tinnitus is present. This process can take a few weeks or several months, and for some it is an ongoing treatment they use as needed for years, but most people that have tried TRT in any of its various forms have found it to be very effective.

Originally, TRT was only available with a separate iPod-like device to play sounds that were shaped to relax the limbic system without covering tinnitus, but in recent years the devices involved have become smaller and much more convenient. Widex, a Danish hearing aid manufacturer, recently released Zen, a TRT-based program that plays sounds they developed through their research that are built into the hearing aids and can be turned on or off as needed with a button or remote control. Hearing aids from other manufacturers can play TRT-based sounds through free or paid smartphone apps via bluetooth streaming.

About Tinnitus Management