If you or someone you love has been experiencing ringing in the ears and other tinnitus-like symptoms, the first step is to make an appointment with your primary care physician. After obtaining your complete medical history, including any existing health conditions and current medical prescriptions, your doctor will check for obstructions in the ear canal and clear out any built-up earwax.
If the tinnitus is reported as being unilateral – only in one ear – or pulsatile in nature, or if any neurological abnormalities are present, your doctor may choose to have you undergo an X-ray, CT scan or MRI scan. If no obstructions are present in the ear canal and no other potential causes are discovered, your primary care doctor will most likely refer you to an otolaryngologist (ENT doctor) or an audiologist.
Audiologist-Conducted Hearing Tests
Once you’ve made an appointment with your audiologist, they usually perform a pure tone audiogram early in the evaluation, especially if your tinnitus is unilateral or accompanied by loss of hearing. A pure tone audiogram is a type of hearing test that plays different frequencies at varying volumes. Even if you haven’t noticed any hearing loss, an audiogram is a good test to perform, as it will show slight signs of hearing loss that you may not have picked up on. In addition to an audiogram, your audiologist may perform supplementary tests, too, such as speech audiometry, which evaluates how well a patient can hear certain words and then verbally repeat those words back.
Specific Tinnitus Testing
Since almost all cases of tinnitus are subjective, meaning that the perceived sound cannot be heard by another person, audiologists usually perform a tinnitus sound matching test to determine what the patient is hearing. Tinnitus sound matching consists of a series of audio clips played to the patient in the hopes of identifying which sound is closest to the internal perceived sound.
Another tinnitus-specific test that is usually performed is a minimum masking level test, which seeks to determine how loud a patient’s tinnitus is perceived as being. This test plays an audio clip at increasing volume levels until the patient registers that the external noise entirely conceals the internal tinnitus noise.
Once all of the hearing-based tests have been completed, you may be asked to fill out a self-assessment form or questionnaire so that your audiologist can establish how much of an impact your tinnitus is having on your daily life and psychological and emotional well-being.
After you’ve spoken with your primary care doctor, find an Avada location close to you and schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist. Your audiologist will perform the appropriate diagnostic tests and then work with you to create a tinnitus treatment plan.