It is important to note that tinnitus is not solely a symptom of hearing loss. Tinnitus can be a symptom of various conditions and must be thoroughly evaluated. Since hearing loss is a common cause of tinnitus, a comprehensive evaluation is necessary to determine the function of the auditory system. There are specialized diagnostic tools, other than a traditional hearing test, available to identify the most subtle change in sensory function and sound conduction into the inner ear. Also, a detailed case history is essential to investigate other potential conditions that cause or exacerbate tinnitus.
If you or someone you know suffers from tinnitus, it is important to seek the best professional qualified to evaluate and manage tinnitus symptoms. Since tinnitus is very prevalent in individuals with hearing loss, it is important to begin with an assessment of auditory function. Audiologists are professionals specialized in identifying, diagnosing, and managing conditions of the auditory system and vestibular system. Audiologic testing by an audiologist is a standard part of a tinnitus evaluation and tinnitus management is within the Audiology Scope of Practice. However, not all audiologists specialize in tinnitus. There are audiologists who are certified in Tinnitus Management through the American Board of Audiology and have completed additional training in Tinnitus and Hyperacusis treatment. Also, Audiologist work in conjunction with ENT Specialists when diagnosed medical conditions need to be evaluated.
It is NOT recommended that one seeks an evaluation by a Hearing Instrument Specialist (HIS) at a “retail” hearing aid office. In Pennsylvania, Hearing instrument Specialists do not have tinnitus management in their Scope of Practice. They typically do not have the training or specialized diagnostic tools available to appropriately diagnose and identify medical conditions. Their focus is to identify hearing loss and fit hearing aids. Hearings aids may be part of tinnitus management, but proper diagnoses and medical conditions MUST be investigated. It is also essential that medical referrals MUST be made when necessary.
Yes, hearing loss is a common cause of tinnitus. However, tinnitus management cannot be generally addressed with simply fitting hearing aids. There are specialized options and approaches for tinnitus management, but approaches must be tailored to the patient’s individual needs and is not a one-size fits all approach. A comprehensive understanding of a patient’s case history is necessary to ensure all possible conditions are considered when formulating a treatment plan to optimize tinnitus relief.
Amy Greer, Au.D.
Dr. Greer is certified through the American Board of Audiology for Tinnitus and Hyperacusis Management