Tinnitus Assessment and Consultation
Tinnitus. First, we should get the word out of the way: some choose to pronounce it“Ti-NIGHT-is”, while others say “TIN-it-us”. Both mean the same thing and either are fine to say when discussing your ears - we will leave the argument up to the academic linguists.
What Is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus can be best defined as a phantom sound in your ears, often reported as a ringing, buzzing, hissing, or a combination of all three. The perception if tinnitus is often described as annoying, upsetting, frustrating, maddening, distracting, or bothersome, and the individual response can vary greatly in severity.
As a sensation, tinnitus cannot be evaluated objectively or directly because the severity of the symptom does not always correlate with the severity of the emotional response. In other words, certain individuals may have a mild tinnitus but have a very strong emotional reaction, and vice versa.
Why Do Musicians Get Tinnitus?
The most common cause of tinnitus is exposure to loud sound over long periods of time. Whether the sound is enjoyable and desired, like music, or the sound is uncomfortable or undesired, like machine noise, the inner ear is still being overworked. To the average listener, the intrusion of a constant sound heard over everything else could change the way that they look at the world, hold conversations, or enjoy something as simple as a quiet evening with a good book. For a musician, who relies so heavily on their hearing for their occupation and enjoyment, tinnitus can be life-changing.
Complicated Problem with Complicated Results
There are many layers to the musician's response to tinnitus that can prove this to be a very complex topic best handled in a case-by-case basis.
- Guilt that you might have caused this condition.
- Worry that you may not be able to continue your career.
- Hope that you will one day be rid of the tinnitus entirely.
- Shame that your younger self never heeded the message that loud sound could permanently damage your hearing.
- Confusion at the mixed messages regarding treatment of tinnitus.
- Fear that your once pristine sense of hearing, your source of so much pride, your "good ear", is not faltering or damaged beyond repair.
- Frustration at the common "learn to live with it" response of medical professionals.
These layers of emotions are understandable given the enormous emphasis placed on a musician's hearing. Tinnitus treatment can be complicated by these variables, but can be appropriately discussed with your Audiologist who has experience working with musicians who have tinnitus.
Although tinnitus cannot be fixed or cured completely with medication or treatment, the reaction - the emotional response, can be modulated for the better. With the guidance of an experienced Audiologist and the benefit of today's technological advancements, there is no reason why professional musicians career should be limited by tinnitus or any other hearing disorder.
Tinnitus assessment begins with a thorough understanding of your history, perception, and reaction. Your history with music and other loud sounds, along with your plans and concerns for the future, will provide context to your tinnitus and guide the treatment process.
Assessment of your perception requires that you focus on your tinnitus, which is no easy task. Depending on the needs, you may be asked to judge which tones, pitches, noises and intensities most closely match your perception. Dr. Frank Wartinger utilizes an advanced pitch matching system that is more precise than standard audiometric measurements, which can lead to a more thorough understanding of the sounds you are hearing.
Your emotional response/reaction to the tinnitus is arguably more important than the measurement of your perception. This will be evaluated through standardized questionnaires, as well as a thorough consultation.
Tinnitus Consultation and Treatment
There are many proven methods to reduce your emotional reaction, and in some cases reduced your perception of the tinnitus. Currently, these methods do not include pills or other medications you may find at your pharmacy or on the internet. Some individuals simply require a better understanding of their tinnitus and hearing, while others require more advanced sound exposure therapy with ear-worn noise generators. During your consultation, these options will be discussed and the most appropriate treatment will be recommended.
Why Choose Dr. Wartinger?
You want to be seen by someone with the technical knowledge and advanced training required to address your tinnitus. Additionally, Dr. Frank Wartinger bring an important element to your assessment and treatment: empathy and experience. As a professional musician who has lived with constant tinnitus since he took up guitar in a middle school garage band, he gets it. He has made it his life's work to help other musicians experiencing tinnitus and hearing difficulties.
Contact Earmark Hearing Conservation to set up an appointment with Dr. Wartinger and discuss your options.