I remember one of my very first tinnitus cases. She was a patient with an unusual hearing loss. When I asked her what her primary hearing concern was, she related the following to me…
“I’ve had this buzzing sound in my left ear since last year. It seemed to have happened all of a sudden. I also have this sensation of fullness in the same ear, almost as if something has plugged it up. I’ve seen the Ear-nose-and-throat specialist, and he told me that the buzzing is due to hearing damage! I wasn’t even aware that my hearing had gone down in my left side and he told me it was due to a virus that I had a year ago. Ever since then, I’ve had trouble hearing the television, hearing over the telephone with that ear, and hearing softly spoken people. But I tell you, the worst part is that the sound in my ear keeps me up at night! Is there nothing I can do? I don’t want to just live with my tinnitus.”
I explained to her that there was a way to treat the tinnitus and that it would take some time to reduce the severity of the sound. The suddenness of the hearing damage along with the distortion of hearing meant that my patient would need a more gradual treatment plan. There were many modifications that had to be made to the type of sound therapy device used. There were also changes that had to be made to her daily routine used in the treatment that I had originally prescribed to her.
Near the beginning of treatment, the patient’s tinnitus felt, at times, to be insurmountable. How could she let herself relax and enjoy life when a constant reminder of her hearing loss was buzzing or ringing in her ear? Not to mention the distortion heard in that same ear every time she was faced with a listening situation! It took some time not only for me to determine the proper treatment regimen, but also for her to adapt to the techniques and strategies necessary to achieve a reduced tinnitus result.
For her particular case, the positive results of the treatment came later rather than sooner. However, there was a significant benefit. My patient now felt that, although the buzzing sound was annoying at times, the tinnitus was perceived much less often. More importantly, she felt that her tinnitus was manageable and under her own control.
Near the end of the treatment plan, I noticed my patient was much happier. Her previously central problem of tinnitus seemed to have faded into a once in a while mild annoyance. Other improvements, such as speech understanding, was noticed by her much more. The experience made me realize how important it was to stick with the end goals of tinnitus treatment, as long as they were reasonable and realistic. I also realized the importance of the partnership between clinician and patient. If the patient isn’t able to take part in their own treatment management, it is less likely that progress will be made. At the same time, the patient would need the guided input of the clinician to help modify the plan as the tinnitus changes during treatment. In the end, it takes both parties to create a successful partnership.
Audiologist Reg. CASLPO. M.Cl.Sc. Aud (c)