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May is Better Speech and Hearing Month

May 08, 2020

Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is a condition in which a person perceives sound that is not actually present in the environment. It is often described as “ringing” in the ears but can include virtually any type of sound including whooshing, hissing or whistling. 

According to studies conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, an estimated 32% of the general population is affected by tinnitus. The prevalence of tinnitus increases to 70% to 85% of the hearing impaired population. This indicates that over 80% of the patients who have tinnitus, also have some degree of hearing loss. 

“Many people who suffer from tinnitus say they aren’t seriously bothered by it,” Dr. Christine Albertus, audiologist, Marshfield Clinic Minocqua and Park Falls Centers said.  “However, a significant number are bothered enough by their tinnitus to seek medical attention. For some patients, this condition becomes so overwhelming that it seriously disrupts their lives.” 

According to Dr. Albertus, there are many possible causes for tinnitus, but most cases are related to damage to the auditory system. In the past, most people who have this condition have been told “nothing can be done” or have never been offered solutions. Some have been discouraged by fads or unproven “miracle cures”.   

“I offer full range of tinnitus solutions from counseling, to hearing aids or combination devices and Otoharmonics, Levo system sound therapy,” Albertus said. “Since 2014, I have been offering a form of sound therapy that is customizable to each individual’s unique tinnitus. This involves a device, much like an iPod. The therapy utilizes advanced technology that is geared to generate sounds, which research suggests produces brain activity that reduces an individual’s perception of tinnitus.

“Basically, this very specific sound therapy produces amplitude modulated, pitch-matched sounds that have been shown to be most effective for reducing tinnitus perception. All sounds are presented to patients at a volume softer than the patient’s perceived tinnitus, designed to retrain the brain to lower the patient’s sound burden.”

Most tinnitus seems loud, but is actually soft when objectively measured. Tinnitus involves both neural and perceptual components. Tinnitus can be brain activity perceived as sound caused by lack of input from the ear to the brain, often from hearing loss. Tinnitus is often perceived as being very loud due to how the subconscious classifies the tinnitus and is related to how it began, as well as stress, anxiety, depression or fear associated with the tinnitus. This is often exacerbated by a general lack of knowledge about tinnitus.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Albertus is conducting some preliminary triage visits via phone care for patients to determine if it is necessary for them to be seen sooner or if phone counseling is sufficient until restrictions are lifted. Evaluations are necessary to assess if a treatable medical condition exists. For more information, call 715-358-1285 in Minocqua or in Park Falls call 715-762-7311.



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