New Sound-Matching Tool Helps Tinnitus Patients Identify What They’re Hearing

A new online tool can help tinnitus sufferers identify and understand their type of tinnitus. A new tool has been developed by The Tinnitus Clinic, an independent audiology service registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in the UK, to help people learn more about tinnitus and seek potential treatment for their conditions.

The tool is a sound-matching implement that allows those with tinnitus to choose the sound that matches what they hear most accurately. By ticking the box, participants can see what treatment options may work best for them at the Tinnitus Clinic.

Although a full tinnitus assessment is needed to provide patients with a personalized treatment package, the sound-matching tool is the first step toward treatment.

A tinnitus assessment is necessary to make sure there are no underlying health issues that may be causing your ears to ring or hum that’s unrelated to tinnitus. These health issues would need to be treated first before you’d be able to receive treatment for tinnitus.

Tinnitus is commonly referred to as a ringing in the ears, but can also manifest as a buzzing, whistling, clicking, or swooshing sound. On rare occasions, some tinnitus patients may even report hearing music.

Although sufferers will hear the sound, there is no actual external sound present. The condition may manifest as a temporary condition (acute) or an ongoing condition (chronic).

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, approximately 15% of the general public, or more than 50 million Americans, suffer from some type of tinnitus. Up to 20 million Americans live with chronic tinnitus whereas 2 million suffer from extreme cases.

Tinnitus is caused by prolonged exposure to loud sounds and up to 90% of those with tinnitus also have some level of noise-induced hearing loss. Permanent hearing loss can be caused by prolonged exposure to sounds that are louder than 85 decibels.

“Whether it’s a whistle, constant hiss, low-frequency buzz, or high-pitched ringing, the sounds caused by tinnitus are all in our heads,” said Mark Williams, the chief audiologist at The Tinnitus Clinic. “[A] lot of the time it is our brains trying to create sound to compensate for the gaps in our hearing.”

The biggest problem tinnitus patients encounter, Williams said, is that they can’t describe the noise they’re hearing to their doctors. The sound-matching implement gives tinnitus sufferers the opportunity to select the noise that’s closest to what they’re hearing.

From there, the implement can explain some of the best potential treatment options for the patient and what might be able to help them do further research on their own condition.

Tinnitus can’t be cured, but it can be treated. Most treatments involve a delicately targeted sound therapy method that’s delivered to reduce over-activity in the body’s central auditory system. This is done by targeting the pitch of the patient’s tinnitus perception.

“No two people’s experience of tinnitus is the same,” said Williams. “[Tinnitus] is personal to the individual, so each patient, therefore, needs a personal service.”

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