Tinnitus

Health App Designed to Manage Tinnitus (Ringing in Ears)

If you suffer from ringing or buzzing in the ears or are seeking relief from bothersome noises around you, a phone app - Widex ZEN - might be your answer. Widex ZEN is a holistic approach that incorporates sound therapy, counseling and relaxation techniques to help manage Tinnitus or symptoms similar to those of Tinnitus. It can be used with earbuds or headphones, or with your Widex hearing aids (either with streaming capability or via a COM-DEX or UNI-DEX). It has shown to be effective in 80% of cases of Tinnitus.

Tinnitus (ti-NIGHT-us or TINN-a-tus) is also known as "ringing in the ears;" however, it can manifest as whistling, buzzing, hissing, roaring, swooshing, clicking, and many other sounds. Regardless of the sound, it can be extremely bothersome. It's also common. According to the Mayo Clinic, approximately one in five people experience Tinnitus at some point in their lives. More than 90% of those experiencing Tinnitus also have hearing loss.

The Widex ZEN app consists of four components that can be tailored to your needs:

  1. Counseling - Provides you with relevant information to help you change the negative interpretation of Tinnitus

  2. Amplification - Used to stimulate the ears and brain to reduce the contrast between the surrounding sounds and the Tinnitus

  3. Fractal Tones - Designed to provide relaxation and reduce stress

  4. Relaxation - Exercises designed for relaxation and sleep management

Tinnitus management is one of the many services we offer. If you have Tinnitus or are experiencing ringing, buzzing or humming in your ears, call us for a complimentary consultation. We're happy to discuss Tinnitus management options with you.

Bose's New Sleepbuds Touted for Tinnitus

 Photo Credit: Bose

Photo Credit: Bose

Bose recently launched noise-masking sleepbuds™, tiny wireless earbuds designed for comfort that deliver soothing sounds to help you sleep. Bose markets the sleepbuds to everyone who has trouble falling or staying asleep due to unwanted noises like snoring and traffic (or for those who have partners who are bothered by standard noise machines). But, SoundGuys published an article a few days ago identifying another group who might benefit from these earbuds: those with Tinnitus. Since many of our patients suffer from Tinnitus, and we understand how it affects their sleep patterns, we were intrigued enough to look into this and share.

The new sleepbuds only work with the Bose Sleep app, meaning you can't listen to music or other forms of entertainment. The sleepbuds provide 10 soothing sounds you can choose from - ranging from beach settings to campfires - to help you fall and stay asleep. Some sounds are better suited to help mask unwanted noise, and some are designed purely for relaxation.

bose-sleepbuds-charging-case.jpg

The rechargeable batteries last up to 15 hours at max volume which, according to the SoundGuys, measured at 74dB. (We don't recommend more than 8 hours of exposure to sounds over 80dB due to noise-induced hearing loss.) The earbuds are charged in the battery case, which holds them in place magnetically. Another great feature is the ability to set an alarm that only you can hear. 

We visited the Bose community page to see what those with Tinnitus had to say about the sleepbuds. Users had some great recommendations, including partnering with other Tinnitus-relief apps and allowing users to adjust the frequency of sounds emitted from the sleepbuds. You can view some of these comments here

The earbuds retail on the Bose website for $249.95. 

Tinnitus is a condition most commonly known as "ringing in the ears;" however, the "ringing" can also be in the forms of whistling, buzzing, hissing, clicking, and roaring, among others. Take a closer look at Tinnitus' causes and management in our August 2017 blog post

Meniere's Disease

Meniere'sDisease.jpg

What is Meniere's Disease?

Named after French physician Prosper Meniere after he experienced this condition in the 1800s, Ménière’s Disease is a disorder of the inner ear that causes severe dizziness (vertigo), ringing in the ears (tinnitus), hearing loss, and a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear. 

Meniere's Disease is caused by the buildup of fluid in the compartments of the inner ear, called the labyrinth. The labyrinth contains the organs of balance (the semicircular canals and otolithic organs) and hearing (the cochlea). When it fills with fluid, it interferes with the normal balance and hearing signals between the inner ear and brain. This interference causes vertigo, tinnitus, and other symptoms. 

menieres-disease-inner-ear.png

A Meniere's episode generally involves severe vertigo, imbalance, nausea, and vomiting, and may come on suddenly or after a short period of tinnitus, hearing fluctuations, or "fullness" in the ear. A sudden fall without warning, called "drop attacks," may also occur if patients feel they are tilted or off balance (although they are standing straight). These episodes of vertigo can last anywhere from 2-4 hours and are usually followed by extreme fatigue. There may be no other symptoms between these attacks, which can be years apart, although hearing loss tends to get progressively worse with time. 

Ménière’s disease can develop at any age, but it is more likely to happen to adults between 40 and 60 years of age.

Causes of Meniere's Disease

Although still relatively unknown, Meniere's Disease is often associated with autoimmune disease, head injuries, allergies, viral infection, and genetics. 

Meniere’s Disease and Hearing Loss

Hearing loss associated with Meniere’s disease usually affects low frequencies and is present in one ear. Hearing tends to decline during an attack and improve after an attack. In the initial stages of the disease, hearing may be normal between attacks. As the disease progresses, however, hearing can permanently decrease in the low frequencies and eventually extend to all frequencies. Hearing loss associated with Meniere’s disease is a “sensorineural” hearing loss, meaning that it is the nerve endings that are affected. In most cases, a sensorineural hearing loss entails permanent loss; a fluctuating sensorineural hearing loss is unusual and a strong indicator of Meniere’s disease. 

Diagnosing Meniere's Disease

Diagnosing Meniere's Disease can be difficult. Often, other conditions need to be considered and ruled out, as there are many conditions that can cause symptoms of vertigo, tinnitus, and hearing loss. Diagnosing Meniere's involves looking closely at the symptoms and conducting a hearing test to document hearing loss after an attack. It may also include an ENG test to measure eye movement, blood tests, or a MRI. 

Treatment of Meniere’s Disease

Unfortunately, there is no cure for Meniere’s disease, nor is there any one treatment that covers all cases. Treatments may include reducing salt, caffeine, processed foods, alcohol and nicotine in your diet; medications, such as diuretics, vestibular suppressants, steroids, and immune system suppressants; and, surgery for extreme cases. If permanent hearing loss is detected, it can be treated with hearing aid technologies.

It is important to note that Meniere's Disease should not be self-diagnosed or self-treated. If you are experiencing symptoms similar to Meniere's, please seek the care of a medical professional, such as your primary physician, audiologist, or ENT specialist. 

Tinnitus or "Ringing in the Ears"

Tinnitus4.jpg

Tinnitus (ti-NIGHT-us or TINN-a-tus) is also known as "ringing in the ears;" however, it can manifest as whistling, buzzing, hissing, roaring, swooshing, clicking, and many other sounds. Regardless of the sound, it can be extremely bothersome. It's also common. According to the Mayo Clinic, approximately one in five people experience Tinnitus at some point in their lives. More than 90% of those experiencing Tinnitus also have hearing loss.

In general, there are two types of Tinnitus:

  1. Subjective Tinnitus: Noises perceived by the patient only. This type of Tinnitus primarily results from auditory and neurological reactions to hearing loss, but it can also be caused by other health conditions. More than 99% of cases reported are subjective.
  2. Objective Tinnitus: Noises that can be heard by the patient, as well as others. These noises typically are produced by blood flow or the body's musculoskeletal systems. 

CAUSES OF TINNITUS

Tinnitus is a symptom of an underlying health condition; it's not a health disorder. It can be temporary or ongoing and is usually a reaction in the brain to damage in the ear and auditory system. Although there are many health disorders that cause Tinnitus, here are some of the most common:

  1. Hearing Loss - This is the most common cause of Tinnitus, whether it's age-related or noise-induced hearing loss. 
  2. Obstructions in the Outer and Middle Ear - Excessive ear wax, fluid, congestion, or foreign objects
  3. Head and Neck Trauma
  4. Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder - Damage to the muscles, ligaments or cartilage of the TMJ, where the lower jaw connects to the skull in front of the ears
  5. Sinus Pressure
  6. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) - One of the major causes of Tinnitus among our military and veterans.
  7. Ototoxic Drugs, including Non-Steroid Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), certain antibiotics, cancer medications and diuretics. In some cases, stopping the medication will cause the Tinnitus symptoms to improve; however, this is a decision that must be made with a medical professional.
  8. Certain Medical Conditions, such as Hypo- and Hyperthyroidism, Anemia, Lyme's Disease, Fibromyalgia, High Blood Pressure, Depression, Anxiety and Ménière's Disease

TINNITUS MANAGEMENT

We use the word "management" because, unfortunately, there is currently no scientific cure for most types of Tinnitus. However, there are good, well-established tools and treatments that can significantly reduce the burden. Our most effective method is working with patients to identify an underlying health disorder to treat. This could be as simple as removing excess earwax, treating an ear infection, changing medications, or fitting patients with hearing aids if hearing loss is detected.

If you are experiencing Tinnitus, please feel free to give us a call. We will be happy to consult with you and determine the next steps. In the meantime, it may help for you to read from others who have lived with Tinnitus (including William Shatner) so you understand you are not in this alone. 

Nutrition and Hearing: Top Foods to Consume and Avoid

You're probably aware that certain foods can help with vision (carrots, anyone?), but nutrition also affects your hearing. In celebration of March as National Nutrition Month, we've compiled a list of foods and nutrients that can help improve your hearing, as well as a list of foods that can have a negative impact.

Consume More:

  1. Vitamin B12, contained in meat, eggs, poultry, dairy products, and other foods from animals. Strict vegetarians and vegans are at high risk for developing a B12 deficiency, which can affect your balance, among many other things. This is especially important for those of you with Tinnitus and Balance Disorder.
  2. Folate/Folic Acid/Vitamin B9, found in spinach, bok choy, romaine, asparagus, turnip greens, broccoli, and beans (especially lentils and garbanzo beans). Folate has been shown to improve Tinnitus, as well as sudden and age-related hearing loss, although more testing is needed. Folate helps increase circulation, improving blood flow to the inner ear.
  3. Omega 3s, found in many fish (most notably salmon), walnuts, and flax and chia seeds. A 2014 study showed that regular consumption of fish (2 or more servings/week) was associated with a lower risk of hearing loss in women. 
  4. Magnesium, included in fruits and vegetables, such as bananas, artichokes, potatoes, spinach, tomatoes and broccoli. Magnesium helps combat free radicals and acts as a protective barrier for the delicate hair cells in the inner ear. University of Michigan researchers found that this nutrient, combined with Vitamins A, C & E, helps prevent noise-induced hearing loss by blocking the creation of free radicals. 
  5. Zinc, found in protein-rich foods like oysters, grass-fed beef, pumpkin seeds, tahini (ground sesame seeds), cashews, almonds, spinach, and dark chocolate. Zinc has shown to improve sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL) — a sudden, unexplained loss of hearing. Zinc boosts the body’s immune system and is also responsible for cell growth and healing, so it’s potentially helpful in warding off ear infections. Some studies suggest it’s also effective in treating tinnitus in individuals with normal hearing.
  6. Potassium, found in bananas, potatoes, spinach, lima beans, tomatoes, raisins, apricots, melons, oranges, yogurt and low-fat milk. Potassium is responsible for regulating the amount of fluid in your blood and body tissue. That’s important to your hearing health because fluid in the inner ear is dependent upon a rich supply of potassium, especially in that part of the ear that translates the noises we hear into electrical impulses the brain interprets as sound.

Studies have shown that a deficiency in nutrients, such as B12 and folic acid, can impair hearing by as much as 39%, while increasing these nutrients can protect hearing by as much as 20%. Folic acid deficiency specifically has been linked with high-frequency hearing loss. Much of this damage is due to free radicals. Antioxidants like B12, folic acid, Omega 3s, and vitamin A are all important because they help fight off damaging free radicals. Here is a good webmd.com article about antioxidants and free radicals.

Avoid or Consume Less:

  1. Vegetable oils, as they contain too many Omega 6 fatty acids. Instead, use EVOO or Canola oil, which are rich in Omega 3s. 
  2. Margarine/Partially Hydrogenated Oils found mostly in processed foods 
  3. High fat meats, especially those treated with nitrates/nitrites (preservatives)
  4. Whole/2% milk - use a dairy substitute such as almond, rice, or coconut milk
  5. Cream cheese - replace with goat cheese or part skim organic ricotta
  6. Processed cheeses, such as American - opt for organic/grass-fed hard cheese 
  7. Sugar and artificial sweeteners - limit these or replace with Stevia, honey, or real maple syrup
  8. Refined carbohydrates - These include white breads, pasta, and any foods containing “enriched” flour, which means nutrients have been removed from the grain 
  9. Sodium - We need it in small quantities, but you should maintain a higher ratio of potassium to sodium. Packaged and processed foods have WAY too much sodium.
  10. Chemicals/pesticides - Wash your produce! Buy organic when you can. Here is a list of EWG's 2017 "Dirty Dozen," the produce with the highest pesticide residue, as well as the "Clean Fifteen," with the lowest.

As a general rule for foods to avoid, eat food the way it was meant to be eaten. Food doesn't grow in a box, so don't buy it that way! Use herbs instead of heavy sauces and creams for added flavor. 

As always, feel free to contact us if you have any questions! Happy eating!

Wednesday Health Watch: Smoking and Hearing Loss

At this point, we've all been educated on the health risks of smoking. However, one area that hasn't been covered extensively is the correlation between smoking and hearing. 

The most cited clinical study of hearing loss and smoking appeared in the June 1998 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. It showed that smokers are 70% more likely than non-smokers to experience hearing loss. It also showed that non-smokers living with a smoker were twice as likely to develop hearing loss as those who were not exposed at all. A more recent study conducted at NYU's School of Medicine in 2011 found that teens exposed to cigarette smoke are to two to three times as likely to develop hearing loss compared to those with little or no exposure. 

Here are a few ways that smoking negatively impacts your hearing: 

  • Nicotine and carbon monoxide deplete oxygen levels and constrict blood vessels in your inner ear, which is responsible for maintaining hair cell health.
  • Nicotine can cause tinnitus, dizziness and vertigo.
  • The chemical messengers between the ears and the brain, or neurotransmitters, are susceptible to the dangerous chemicals in cigarette smoke, including nicotine. Chronic nicotine use can impair neurotransmitter function adversely affecting the brain’s ability to interpret sound.

When smoking is combined with additional risk factors for hearing loss, including age and noise exposure, the effects appear to be cumulative. Therefore, the longer a person smokes, the more likely their smoking will contribute to their hearing health. 

The good news is 20 minutes after your last cigarette, your blood pressure decreases and circulation improves. Your oxygen and carbon monoxide levels return to normal eight hours after a cigarette. In 48 hours, your nerve endings begin to regenerate.

It's never too late to quit!

Wednesday Health Watch: Tinnitus

We get many inquiries about Tinnitus. We've attempted to answer the most common questions relating to causes, symptoms and management of Tinnitus in this post.

First, we'll start with how you say it (because that's one of the main questions we receive). There are two pronunciations, and both are correct. 

  • ti-NIGHT-us (typically used by patients)
  • TINN-a-tus (typically used by those in the medical field)

WHAT IS TINNITUS?

Tinnitus is commonly referred to as "ringing in the ears," although it can also manifest as whistling, buzzing, hissing, roaring, swooshing, clicking, and many other sounds. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, more than 50 million Americans, nearly 15% of the population, experience some form of Tinnitus. More than 90% of those experiencing Tinnitus also have hearing loss.

In general, there are two types of Tinnitus:

  1. Subjective Tinnitus: Noises perceived by the patient only. This type of Tinnitus primarily results from auditory and neurological reactions to hearing loss, but it can also be caused by other health conditions. More than 99% of cases reported are subjective.
  2. Objective Tinnitus: Noises that can be heard by the patient, as well as others. These noises typically are produced by blood flow or the body's musculoskeletal systems. 

CAUSES OF TINNITUS

Tinnitus is a symptom of an underlying health condition; it's not a health disorder. It can be temporary or ongoing and is usually a reaction in the brain to damage in the ear and auditory system. According to the American Tinnitus Association, there are approximately 200 health disorders that can cause Tinnitus. Here is a list of some of the most common:

  1. Hearing Loss - This is the most common cause of Tinnitus, whether it's age-related or noise-induced hearing loss. 
  2. Obstructions in the Outer and Middle Ear - Excessive ear wax, fluid, congestion, or foreign objects
  3. Head and Neck Trauma
  4. Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder - Damage to the muscles, ligaments or cartilage of the TMJ, where the lower jaw connects to the skull in front of the ears
  5. Sinus Pressure
  6. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) - One of the major causes of Tinnitus among our military and veterans.
  7. Ototoxic Drugs, including Non-Steroid Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), certain antibiotics, cancer medications and diuretics. In some cases, stopping the medication will cause the Tinnitus symptoms to improve; however, this is a decision that must be made with a medical professional.
  8. Certain Medical Conditions, such as Hypo- and Hyperthyroidism, Anemia, Lyme's Disease, Fibromyalgia, High Blood Pressure, Depression, Anxiety and Ménière's Disease

SYMPTOMS OF TINNITUS

As indicated above, most people experience Subjective Tinnitus, meaning the sound is only perceived by the patient. The American Tinnitus Association has put together a list of sounds that we feel best conveys what we hear our patients describe. You can listen to these sounds here. (Be sure to turn down the volume to the right of each sound before you hit "play.")

TINNITUS MANAGEMENT

Unfortunately, there is currently no scientific cure for most types of Tinnitus. The best thing we can do for our patients is to help determine an underlying health disorder to treat. This could be as simple as removing excess earwax, treating an ear infection, or changing your medication. It could also mean testing your hearing, and if applicable, fitting you for hearing aids. Or, providing ear protection if you're constantly subjected to loud noises.

There are other "remedies," as well, including devices that play white noise or music to distract your brain and/or mask the Tinnitus. A Reader's Digest article, published in July, offers "14 Effective Remedies for Relief." 

If you think you are experiencing Tinnitus, please feel free to give us a call. We will be happy to consult with you and determine the next steps. 

Interested in more news about Tinnitus? Check out our tinnitus page or read our latest blog post, Bose's New Sleepbuds Touted for Tinnitus.