Mario Hearing Clinics of Massachusetts

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Tinnitus FAQs


How do you treat tinnitus?

Our treatment is called Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT), but other names such as Habituation Therapy are common. It involves an extensive audiological evaluation and tinnitus testing, several counseling sessions, the use of external sound and frequently the use of hearing aids which can be configured to also function as sound generators. It does not involve any surgery or drugs.


What IS TINNITUS RETRAINING THERAPY?

Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, as its name suggests, works to retrain the brain to either ignore the sound of your tinnitus or to treat it as a background element. This is accomplished by using outside sounds to draw attention away from the sounds created by the brain which are perceived as tinnitus, shifting focus to actual sounds instead. Eventually we seek to achieve a point at which you are no longer bothered by your tinnitus.


Are there any side effects of the treatment?

A patient may become used to their tinnitus being less noticeable while wearing their hearing aids. During the first stages of TRT, when these are taken off the tinnitus may return to its previous level, which sounds louder compared to the lower level experienced while wearing the hearing aids. As TRT progresses the tinnitus usually becomes less noticeable even after taking the hearing aids off.


What if I can’t hear my tinnitus when I am tested?

The examination include an audiogram and several specific tests which allow us to evaluate the pitch and degree of your tinnitus and/or hyperacusis. If the tinnitus is not present on the day of the testing, it will not influence the possibility of success with the treatment.


I recently had audiological tests done. Do they have to be repeated?

We prefer to have the tests performed in our Clinic. Equipment calibrations and the acoustics of different testing methods may vary, and there are very specific measurements we perform which are not routinely provided in other places. Some testing may be acceptable if done within six months and by a licensed audiologist or hearing instrument specialist.


Is the counseling a form of psychotherapy or biofeedback?

No. The counseling will provide you with information about the causes and factors involved in your tinnitus/hyperacusis, explain to you how the retraining therapy works, and teach you how to control your tinnitus. The counseling is a fundamental part of the treatment process.


What is the role of external sound?

External sound from radios, TVs, stereos, etc. is used at a low level, not to cover (mask) your tinnitus but to help bring about the changes in how you hear and the priority given to the tinnitus by your brain. It slightly distracts you from your tinnitus and reduces the contrast between it and complete silence.


 

Can I just buy the devices?

These devices are used to help speed up the retraining, but what is important is how they are used, something that depends on each individual patient’s needs. Multiple adjustments and counseling sessions are needed to achieve positive results. If you just buy and wear the devices, you most likely will not achieve improvement, and in some cases you may even harm yourself. We will teach you how to use them effectively.


Do I need to have the devices?

Not everyone needs the devices. After your audiological evaluation we will give you our recommendation regarding your treatment, which could consist of anything from counseling, to the use of hearing aids, to TRT.


I am using hearing aids. How can I use other devices?

Depending on the type of hearing instruments, it is possible we can work with yours and that you will not need any other devices. If your current hearing aids are not appropriate you could either switch between your current devices and those for TRT or we can configure the new hearing aids to perform the function of you old ones while providing sound for TRT.


I was using maskers without any effect. What’s the difference between maskers and these devices?

Although in some cases masking can provide tinnitus relief, this approach is aimed at making tinnitus inaudible. However, when the device is removed, the tinnitus returns and the level of sound required to mask the tinnitus may be uncomfortable. We use the devices to generate noise not to cover, but to mix with the sound of tinnitus. The goal of TRT is to retrain the brain so that it eventually ignores the tinnitus. In order to do this, the tinnitus cannot be covered. Generating sound that mixes with your tinnitus will help you feel more comfortable with it and remove the emotional response to tinnitus, eventually achieving a point where the tinnitus itself is no longer bothersome or, in some cases, no longer heard.


I am taking some medication. Will I be able to continue?

Our evaluation will provide the answer to this question. In general, if you are taking medication for any reason other than tinnitus, you should be able to continue taking the medication. Any changes to your medication should be discussed with your primary doctor.


How long does the treatment take?

The treatment takes from 6 to 24 months.


Will I be cured?

You will no longer be bothered or annoyed by your tinnitus. However, if you concentrate and want to hear your tinnitus, you will.


What is the guarantee that I get better?

There is no guarantee. From our experience, over 88% of patients engaged in TRT have reported significant improvement.


How is hyperacusis treated?

Hyperacusis is also treated using the TRT devices. In most cases the treatment lasts anywhere between 6 to12 months. It involves wearing the sound devices with counseling, especially if and when this is associated with an aversion to sounds.