According to Mayo Clinic, tinnitus affects 15–20% of people. This common condition makes you hear sounds that aren’t actually there. The noises can be constant or come and go. Some people perceive a mild hum, while others hear a piercing squeal that causes headaches and makes concentrating difficult. If you experience these irritating sounds, tinnitus testing can help you find treatment.
Why Is Tinnitus Testing Necessary?
Constant ringing, buzzing, or hissing in one or both ears are clear signs that something is wrong. Why undergo a hearing test if you already suspect you have tinnitus? Tinnitus testing is designed to help your doctor understand what is causing the problem.
This is important because tinnitus can have many causes. To recommend an appropriate treatment, first, physicians need to pinpoint the likely reason you’re experiencing these sounds. Some people have tinnitus due to ear damage. Others only experience the ringing because of side effects from medication.
Common causes of tinnitus include earwax blockage, age-related hearing changes, exposure to loud noises, high blood pressure, and TMJ disorders. The good news is that once hearing professionals understand the cause of your tinnitus, they can often help you find relief.
For example, if the sounds are caused by stress or high blood pressure, changing medications may alleviate the issue. If long-term hearing damage is to blame, treatments such as tinnitus retraining therapy may help you learn to drown out irritating sounds.
What Can You Expect During a Tinnitus Testing Appointment?
Above all, audiologists seek to make you feel comfortable. They understand that tinnitus can cause some disorientation and nervousness. You can expect your examination to be gentle yet thorough.
Here are four main parts of diagnosing tinnitus:
- When you arrive at the clinic, you will get a questionnaire to fill out. The information you provide tells the doctor what you’re experiencing personally. Many questionnaires ask you to describe the sounds you hear and provide information about how long they last.
- During your appointment, audiologists follow up on the information provided in your questionnaire. The doctors are patient, kind, and friendly, so don’t be afraid to ask questions of your own. The purpose of this visit is to narrow down the list of possible causes.
- Next, the hearing professional conducts a physical examination of your ears. This can reveal whether an ear infection or excess earwax is the culprit. Audiologists use a painless device called an otoscope to look at deeper parts of the ear.
- A major part of tinnitus exams involves performing several different hearing tests. These tests can help to determine the level of tinnitus sounds you hear. They can also reveal any hearing loss problems that need attention.
Tinnitus affects everyone in different ways, so clearly understanding your symptoms is critical. This level of personalized care is what distinguishes the best hearing centers. The goal is to help you live your life happily and stress-free.
What Types of Tests Are Used for Diagnosing Tinnitus?
The testing portion of an exam usually happens in a comfortable but soundproof room. The doctor looks at your ears, neck, and head to check for signs of tinnitus. Audiologists use a combination of hearing tests, movement tests, and pitch testing for diagnosing tinnitus.
First, patients put on a pair of earphones. The hearing professional plays several different sounds to see how your overall hearing is. This is called a pure-tone test. Tinnitus testing also includes speech recognition, where you’re asked to repeat words and phrases.
In addition to these main hearing tests, more specialized testing may be used depending on what the audiologist suspects as the cause of your tinnitus. A few of these painless tests include otoacoustic emissions and tympanometry, an in-depth test of the bones and muscles in your middle ear.
Don’t be surprised if the hearing professional asks you to move or rotate your neck during testing. Performing actions such as clenching your jaw or moving your arms can sometimes change the tinnitus sounds patients hear. If this happens, it gives doctors a clue about what’s causing your tinnitus.
Pitch Match and Loudness Match Testing
To understand the specific sounds you’re hearing even better, audiologists often use pitch matching tests during tinnitus appointments. In this test, the doctor plays several different tones in your earphones. When you find the one that matches your tinnitus sounds the closest, you let the doctor know.
Loudness matching works in the same way, except related to volume. The doctor will play a sound, such as music, gradually increasing the volume level. As soon as the music completely masks your tinnitus, you tell the doctor.
These tests are a way of helping the audiologist pinpoint exactly what you’re experiencing. Different sounds, pitches, and frequencies can indicate the possible cause of your hearing issues. This information is also useful for customizing tinnitus masking hearing aids.
When Should You Visit a Hearing Specialist?
Contrary to what friends and relatives may tell you, you don’t have to just “put up” with tinnitus. If you are experiencing loud noises that cause discomfort or interfere with your daily activities, it’s a good idea to visit a professional hearing center.
The main factor in deciding whether to seek treatment depends on the effect these sounds have on your lifestyle. To schedule an appointment right away in Houston, contact Memorial Hearing online or call (713) 984-7562.
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