What Is Tinnitus and How Do We Treat It?

If you have chronic ringing or other sounds in your ears, you know how frustrating and disruptive it can be. To help us understand tinnitus and what you can do about it, is Marcia Dewey, AuD, CCC-A, an audiologist who specializes in tinnitus with the Froedtert & MCW health network. 

What is tinnitus? 

Tinnitus is the perception of sounds inside of us — that's not coming from the outside. It's often referred to as ringing in the ears, but it really can be any sound — ringing, buzzing, roaring, static, hissing, pulsing, even music. 

It's more important to really think about what tinnitus is NOT. Tinnitus is not a disease. It is actually a benign condition, and it does not harm us physically when we hear it. 

How are hearing loss and tinnitus connected? 

Tinnitus is a symptom of hearing loss, and most cases of tinnitus are associated with hearing loss. 

When we have hearing loss, we're not getting sounds as strongly to our brain, and our brain tries to compensate for that by turning up. And when the area of our brain that processes sounds turns up, we will hear a sound inside of us. 

Why should someone with tinnitus come to the Froedtert & MCW health network? 

We've been focusing in the area of tinnitus since 2008. All of our providers are trained in what's called tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT). That is the gold standard for treating tinnitus. 

We might also fit hearing aids to help to ameliorate the effects of hearing loss. We also use sounds in a therapeutic way to help distract from the distress of the tinnitus. 

And, finally, we're always going to use education and counseling to help people to understand what tinnitus is and what tinnitus is not.