ST. ALBANS — Every year, millions of Americans are devastated by the sound of ringing in their ears. But Dr. Kristi Dumont, of Northwest Hearing Serviceswants you to know there is a treatment.
“My biggest takeaway for patients is that it is very common and there is a treatment,” she told the Messenger.
Dr. Dumont, a dedicated audiologist, has been treating patients’ complaints of tinnitus (ringing in the ears) in her practice in St. Albans for nearly 20 years. She uses tinnitus retraining therapy to train the brain to ignore noise.
“Imagine your tinnitus being a candle,” she said. “We can’t blow out the candle, but if that candle is in a dark room, it’s going to be very noticeable. If we turn on the lights, the candle is still there, but it’s not very visible. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish with tinnitus.
Tinnitus, which is often associated with hearing loss, is different for almost everyone. While some hear a ringing, hissing or clicking noise, others say they hear music. In a recent conversation with the MessengerDr. Dumont answered some questions about tinnitus.
Q: What is the biggest misconception about tinnitus?
A: Most everyone I see has already been told that there is no hope and that they will suffer forever. It is true that there is no cure for tinnitus, but there is a treatment.
With the treatment, we bring it to a place where you’re not really aware of it, unless you stop to think about it. Sometimes that’s half the battle with patients. They’ve resigned themselves to thinking they’re going to be stuck with it forever and it actually triggers more than one response and it tends to make the tinnitus worse.
Q: What are some of the causes of tinnitus?
A: Stress is a big cause. Anything that raises blood pressure can make it worse. Exposure to noise, certain medications too.
Certain things in a person’s diet, such as caffeine, salt and alcohol, but only by consuming them in excess. Wax that clogs the ear may be the cause.
Sometimes we find it is associated with TMJ (jaw joint dysfunction), and if we find that to be the cause, we encourage patients to speak to their dentist.
Q: Do you see any commonalities between people experiencing it?
A: It’s definitely something we see more in patients who worked around noise or had a history of noise exposure. Here in Franklin County we have a lot of farmers, a lot of people (mostly men), who have industrial and noisy jobs. People need to shield their hearing from noise to avoid both potential hearing loss and tinnitus.
Q: What do you do during an initial consultation?
A: It varies depending on the severity of the tinnitus, but the first thing we always want to do is a hearing test. We’re looking for an abnormal pattern or something in the hearing test that might raise a red flag and alert us that there’s more going on here than a standard ringing in the ear.
We also discuss the impact of tinnitus. Sometimes we have questionnaires that patients complete in which we calculate a score on how much tinnitus affects them. This helps us determine treatments.
We spend time explaining to them why they have tinnitus and how to deal with it.
Q: What are some of the treatment options?
A: There are a few options depending on the patient’s hearing status as well as their Tinnitus Handicap Score. This may involve teaching them how to apply tinnitus rehabilitation therapy at home, using a hearing aid with a tinnitus program, possibly referring them to a psychologist trained in using cognitive behavioral therapy to treat tinnitus.
What we want patients to know first and foremost is that there is help. Call us at Northwest Hearing Services for a tinnitus assessment and hearing test. 802-524-0839
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