Top 10 Myths about Tinnitus by Lisa Packer, staff writer, Healthy Hearing

If you are one of the millions of people in the world that has tinnitus, you know it can impact everything from your work to your family and social life. That constant ringing in the ears can also lead to stress and depression.

Tinnitus is the perception of sound when no actual sound is present. For many, tinnitus is characterized by ringing in the ears, but it can also manifest itself in different sounds such as whistling, buzzing or hissing. 

Knowing tinnitus facts is a great way to get on a path towards relief. 

According to the American Tinnitus Association, tinnitus sufferers in the United States number in the millions, with the CDC estimating that almost 15 percent of people have tinnitus to some degree. And with so many people suffering from tinnitus, it is more important than ever to be able to distinguish fact from fiction. Knowing the truth about tinnitus can give you the best chance to effectively approach the condition and reduce the symptoms in order to improve your quality of life. 

Myth: Tinnitus is an incurable disease 

This is not completely true. Tinnitus is not a disease in itself, but is sometimes the result of any number of underlying medical conditions. Loud noise, neurological damage, vascular disease, or even traumatic brain injury are just some examples of health issues that can contribute to tinnitus. Tinnitus can also develop as a reaction to certain medications. And while it is true that there is no “cure,” there are treatments available that will lessen the symptoms and make tinnitus easier to live with. 

Myth: I can just change my diet and my tinnitus will go away 

While some feel that certain additives and foods such as alcohol, sodium and caffeine can aggravate tinnitus, they are not usually the root cause. It is always important to overall health to eat a balanced diet and maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, but tinnitus needs to be addressed separately. Tinnitus management strategies can include dietary and lifestyle changes, but these alone won’t “cure” tinnitus. 

Myth: There is nothing I can do about tinnitus 

There is something you can do! Research into tinnitus is ongoing, and treatments are constantly evolving and improving. Whether your tinnitus is mild, moderate or severe, an audiologist can offer solutions and treatments to help lessen the symptoms and make your condition more manageable. In addition, other healthcare professionals may be able to diagnose and address the health issues that might be causing the tinnitus in the first place. 

Myth: Only those with hearing loss get tinnitus 

Yes, those with hearing loss can also get tinnitus, and they are often related. But it is also possible to get tinnitus without having hearing loss. If you are exposed to very loud noise, such as a rock concert or an explosion, you might experience temporary ringing in the ears. And certain other medical conditions or use of medications can cause tinnitus as well. Even if you don’t think you have hearing loss, it is still worth getting checked out by an audiologist. 

Myth: Everyone with tinnitus eventually goes deaf 

Tinnitus and hearing loss can coexist but are separate conditions. Just because you have tinnitus doesn’t mean you have hearing loss, and even if you have hearing loss, it doesn’t mean you are going deaf. Hearing aids are a great solution hearing loss and can often manage tinnitus symptoms at the same time. 

Myth: Tinnitus is always a ringing in the ears 

The truth is that tinnitus sounds are not the same for everyone. Ringing is most common, but so is buzzing, whooshing or humming. Tinnitus sounds can even vary per individual from day to day. 

Myth: Hearing aids won’t help with tinnitus. 

The truth is that is that new developments in hearing aid technology can address both hearing loss and symptoms of tinnitus by increasing the sounds of external noise, thereby masking the internal sounds of tinnitus. 

Myth: There are pills you can take to make tinnitus go away 

Unfortunately there is no “magic pill” that you can take to cure tinnitus. But there are ways to manage tinnitus that can lessen the symptoms and make them manageable. Advances have been made in sound therapy with great success, for example. Other ways to manage the symptoms include hearing aids, meditation, stress management techniques and changes in diet and exercise. 

Myth: Tinnitus is only from listening to loud music or using earbuds 

While listening to dangerously loud music, or any excessive noise for that matter, can result in tinnitus, there can be many different causes. People of different ages, races, health statuses and socioeconomic backgrounds get tinnitus, and quite often there is no obvious reason. In other words, just because you don’t listen to loud music or use earbuds doesn’t mean you are immune. 

Myth: Tinnitus is all in your head 

Just because others can’t “see” your tinnitus, and there are no test results that will show the presence of it, doesn’t mean it isn’t all too real. Millions of people worldwide suffer from tinnitus, and it can vary from mild to debilitating. Don’t suffer in silence. There are experts that can help you manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life. 


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Many times, a patient will ask “what’s the best hearing aid?” Although a good question, it becomes challenging based on all the variables that must be considered to answer the question appropriately. The “right” hearing aid for you depends on several factors, including the type and severity of hearing loss, cosmetic preferences, lifestyle, frequented environments, vision, manual dexterity, and the list continues.  Even when two people have similar hearing test results, the benefits and outcomes will vary. What one person thinks is the best hearing aid may not be impressive to another.  Our ears bring in the sound but the way our brain processes information is different from one person to another. These considerations for finding “the best”, makes the answer challenging and comparing with your friends very difficult. Buying a hearing aid is a very different buying experience compared to other consumer products.  It’s not like buying an appliance or a car where you can compare brands. The product is only one sliver of the process. Selecting the best, most competent and knowledgeable audiologist becomes critical. Combing both will give you the best outcome. As recipients of the Consumer’s Choice Award for outstanding customer service for two consecutive years, we at Audiological Consultants of Atlanta, take a great pride in our mission statement to “promote and provide the highest quality of audiological and hearing aid services and products in the communities we serve.” We work with most hearing aid manufacturers and it is our job to work with you to find the BEST hearing aid solution for you.  We take our job seriously. It’s not unusual to hear from our new patients who have previously received services elsewhere, “I’ve never had such a thorough test before”.  Additionally, our audiologists not only perform extensive testing but also provide important counseling with each patient along with verification of the benefit of any hearing device. Our front office staff is complimented on our outstanding customer service because we realize that we only get one chance to make a great first impression. Our audiology assistants work side by side with each audiologist in an important role to provide comprehensive care to our patients. We will find the BEST hearing aids for you!  

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Hearing Loss Prevention and Headphones

Noise induced hearing loss can occur from either a one- time exposure to a burst of extremely loud noise or a repeated exposure to loud noise over time. One can conserve hearing by wearing hearing protection around loud sounds and limiting noise exposure. Audio players have been the subject of hearing loss research since the popularity of iPods and MP3 players increased in recent years. While loud environmental sounds may not be easily escapable, personal listening habits are optional. There are steps consumers can take to diminish the risk audio players have on hearing loss. Volume, time listening, and ear phone style can all be optimized to find the best combination for hearing conservation.

A basic rule of thumb when listening to music or sound with an audio device is the quieter the sound, the longer you can listen to it safely. If the sound is very quiet you can listen to it for a long time without damage. On the other hand, even common sounds can cause damage over a long period of time.  A normal conversation occurs at about 60 decibels. The daily recommended safe volume level of any sound is below 85 dB for a maximum duration of eight hours. Sounds around 90 decibels and above can cause permanent damage to the hair cells in the inner ear leading to hearing loss.

National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and the Center for Disease Control created a chart to illustrate accepted standards for recommended permissible exposure time for continuous time weighted average noise. For every 3 dBAs over 85dBA, the permissible exposure time before possible damage can occur is cut in half. For instance 8 hour of permissible exposure time to 85db, 4 hours at 88dB, 100dB for 15 minutes, and 115dB for just 30 seconds. Every audio player is not created equal and volume level does not always directly correlate to decibels. Most stock earphone can reach a level over 100 decibels, loud enough to begin causing permanent damage after just 15 minutes a day. Applications or Apps are available that monitor decibels to help keep listening levels in the safe range.

Another step consumers can take to prevent noise induced hearing loss is to choose noise-reducing head phones. Noise canceling or isolator headphones cancel out background noise so the listener does not turn up volume to damaging levels in order to hear the audio. Listening to head phones in a quiet environment rather than in a loud environment is also recommended. In a study of one hundred doctoral students conducted by Audiologists Brian Fligor and Terri Ives, only 6% of students turned their music up to dangerous levels in quiet environments versus 80% of students turning their audio players up to dangerous levels in noisy environments.

You can get customized headphones by seeing an Audiologist. An Audiologist can make impressions of your ear and have your favorite headphones inserted in the molds.


“Earbuds vs. Headphones: Which Will Cause Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?” Medical Daily. December 21, 2015. Susan Scutti

“Does earphone type affect risk for recreational noise-induced hearing loss?” Brian J. Fligor, Sc.D., CCC-A and Terri Ives, Sc.D, October 19, 2006

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Reduced hearing acuity is frustrating for people with hearing loss as well as for those around them. In fact, a 2009 study showed that relationships are failing because of unmanaged hearing loss. The survey of 1,500 hearing-impaired people over 55 revealed that almost half (44 percent of people) said that relationships with their partner, friends or family have suffered because they can’t hear properly.

Hearing loss isn’t just an ear issue; it’s a quality of life and health issue. Untreated hearing loss can have serious consequences. A decrease in hearing sensitivity is associated with diminished cognitive function, poorer mental health, and social withdrawal. Read Full Article

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Dawn Green, ACA Director of Administrative Services, wins the November 2016 “You Rock” Award

2016-dawn-rocksDawn Green receives this award for her outstanding service and commitment to ACA.  She has worked diligently and selflessly until completion, in helping ACA complete many of our projects for our November year end.

Thank You, Dawn!

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Link to memory, cognitive function elevates urgency of treating hearing loss

A growing body of research links untreated hearing loss to impaired memory and diminished cognitive function, raising the significance of hearing health to overall cognitive health

According to Brandeis University Professor of Neuroscience, Dr. Arthur Wingfield, who has been studying cognitive aging and the relationship between memory and hearing acuity for many years, effortful listening due to unaddressed hearing loss is associated with increased stress and poorer performance on memory tests.

His research shows that even when people with unaddressed hearing loss perceive the words that are being spoken, their ability to remember the information suffers—likely because of the draw on their cognitive resources that might otherwise be used to store what has been heard in memory. This is especially true for the comprehension of quick, informationally complex speech that is part of everyday life.

“Even if you have just a mild hearing loss that is not being treated, cognitive load increases significantly,” Wingfield said. “You have to put in so much effort just to perceive and understand what is being said that you divert resources away from storing what you have heard into your memory.”

Wingfield—along with Jonathan Peelle from the Department of Otolaryngology at Washington University in St. Louis—recently published a paper in the July 2016 issue of Trends in Neurosciences exploring the neural consequences of untreated age-related hearing loss. In the paper, they explain that although compensation of hearing loss by other areas of the brain “can frequently result in successful comprehension, it is not without consequence for further operations, such as remembering what we have heard.”

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Hearing Aids are not like Eyeglasses

One of the most used phrases in our practice is “be patient. It takes time to adjust to hearing again.” Sometimes we do use the analogy of eyeglasses to hearing aids, but they are actually very different. Glasses help you see better and hearing aids help you hear better, but that’s where the similarities end.

When people have a loss of visual acuity, they generally notice that images are blurry or not clear. For most people that need glasses, or contacts, the lenses are prescribed to compensate for refractive errors. Refractive error means that the shape of your eye does not bend light correctly, resulting in a blurred image. The main types of refractive errors are myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), presbyopia (loss of near vision with age), and astigmatism. In these cases, the retina and the optical nerve are intact. With proper fitting and prescriptive powers, vision is restored to crisp and clear vision at or close to 20/20. There is usually a short adjustment period to seeing better. The brain still needs to adjust to a change that is taking place. It should be noted that there are also incurable eye diseases such as macular degeneration and glaucoma.

Unlike vision problems, the majority of hearing loss in adults (90-95%) is caused by degenerative or progressive nerve loss. Once the nerve (microscopic hair cells) is damaged, there is no cure for hearing loss, but hearing aids are prescribed to help compensate for the loss of acuity. Hearing aids do amplify sounds, but they do not always make a particular sound that you want to hear as crisp and clear as you might want. Modern hearing aids are programmed specifically to your individual hearing loss and needs, and are verified at the time of your fitting and at follow-up appointments. Even with the best technology and best-programmed hearing aids, they still are not like glasses meaning they won’t give you “20/20 hearing” in every situation. The science of hearing aids and ongoing research continue to improve but they cannot replicate the intricacies of the auditory system.

Another way that we wish hearing aids were more like glasses is when it comes to the stigma associated with wearing them. Billions of people around the world wear glasses and no one thinks of them any differently but for some reason, hearing aids have not yet become as mainstream.

We hear with our ears, but we understand (process) with our brain.


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ACA loved this article: Why Internet is Essential for the Hard of Hearing by Katherine Bouton

This past week, we moved to a new apartment and I found myself without high-speed internet — no DSL or Wi-Fi connection at home — for 10 (long) days.

It was an uncomfortable reminder of how vitally important the internet is for people with hearing loss. I did have a smartphone, so I was not completely cut off from communication, but it was very limited. Here’s what no home internet meant for me:

No captioned telephone. I hear on the phone, but not well. Even using the telecoil setting on my hearing aid does not make the speaker’s voice completely clear. Captioned telephones depend on DSL or Wi-Fi for the captioning part of the call, which appears on the screen of your special phone. Two of the major manufacturers of these captioned phones are CapTel and CaptionCall. They are available free of charge to people who can provide proof of their hearing loss, and oftentimes their representative will come to your home to set it up. But you do need a high-speed internet connection.

For captions on cellphones, a company called Innocaption has been developing a system to provide simultaneous voice and captioning. It’s still got some kinks to work out, but when it works, it’s terrific. Unfortunately, at least on my phone (an iPhone 5S) and with my carrier (Verizon), I cannot get voice and captions at the same time unless I have DSL or Wi-Fi. (Innocaption, which has very responsive consumer support, confirmed this in an email: “Unfortunately, Verizon supports voice and data at the same time from iPhone 6, not iPhone 5/5s.”) I need that connection to Wi-Fi.

This is a problem anywhere outdoors, but I live in a big city, and without captions my cellphone is close to useless on the street. This is because electromagnetic interference produces a buzz in telecoil mode that drowns out talk. I guess I need to spring for a new iPhone.

I did have Ava. Ava is a voice recognition system used for in-person conversations. Two or more people sign on to the app on their smartphones. Their voices are simultaneously captioned on each user’s phone, color-coded by speaker. Ava is still in the testing stage, but you can download it here. The version I was using required Wi-Fi, but the newest version, which I downloaded (free) today, no longer requires Wi-Fi. I had a nice conversation with someone in the dog park. I could understand him over the yapping dogs because he was talking into my Ava-equipped phone.

Email was difficult. I’m a voluminous emailer, not only because I’m hard of hearing, but also because of the work I do both professionally and as a volunteer. The volume of mail I receive gets lost on the small screen of a smartphone. For those of us with hearing loss, email tends to be a lifeline for communicating with others. I did email on my smartphone (using satellite technology rather than Wi-Fi). But once I had Wi-Fi again and went back through the emails on my computer, I saw I’d missed quite a few. Also, no matter what size phone screen you have, it’s still pretty small.

Sherry Turkle‘s 2011 book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, prompted consternation about the “death of conversation” due to an over-dependence on technology.

But for those of us with hearing loss, technology is sometimes the only way we can communicate. In a restaurant we may be looking at our smartphones, but that’s because we’re getting captioning from a program like Ava telling us what the speaker across the table is saying. At the theater we may be looking at a smartphone, but that’s because we’re lucky enough to be at a performance with I-Captions or Globetitles.

Texting and emailing are conversation for people with hearing loss. I was surprised by how handicapped I felt without high-speed internet. I lived two-thirds of my life before the internet came along, so you’d think I’d know how to manage for a week or so. I wasn’t as hard of hearing then, it’s true. But also, once you’ve enjoyed the advantages that Wi-Fi and DSL offer those with hearing loss, it’s really hard to give them up.

This post first appeared on AARP Health on 10/18/2016.


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Technology You Can Use – Captioned Telephones

Not all modern technology is easily accessible and easy to use. Sometimes we are told how easy it is to use a new technological innovation only to quickly learn that the technology requires the memorization of untold steps just to access it—definitely not easy at all! And, seemingly not worth the trouble to learn how it works!

But, this is not always the case! I am writing today to provide information about a relatively unknown product, available from two different providers in Georgia that serve to greatly enhance your telephone communications with others. This innovation is the captioned home telephone. Yes, just like closed-captioning on your television, there are now telephones that convert the spoken word into easy-to-read text that will help ensure that you receive every last bit of your important communications. Wouldn’t it be great not to be “guessing” at words, or asking people to repeat?

Closed-captioned phones can serve as an aid to your residual hearing, and enhance your ability to communicate over the telephone. The great “fringe” benefit of having a closed-captioned phone includes the appearance of large, real-time, high-resolution captions that appear on a large display screen, making it easy for you to read and confirm what you are hearing. Most phones also have adjustable volume controls which you can set to your comfort level, and some even have answering machines that will play back both audio and close-captioning for all of your missed calls. With additional options such as caller ID and speed-dialing, these phones offer many attractive advantages.

A terrific advantage is that the companies that offer these telephones also offer installation in your home, installation that includes personalized in-home instruction in how to set the phone’s options to your liking, and how to navigate through the settings.

If you have ever had the experience of being frustrated when trying to communicate over the telephone, perhaps it is time that you look into some technology that is designed to help.

General Requirements to take advantage of this service:

  • Medically-recognized hearing loss (application signed by your Audiologist)
  • A high-speed internet connection (either wired or wireless)
  • A standard home phone (land line), though not necessary if using the mobile app.

There are two services for hearing impaired Georgia residents that provide free telephones with call-captioning for all incoming and outgoing telephone calls. If you have an interest in a close-captioned telephone technology, please contact Audiological Consultants of Atlanta for more information.


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Consultative Support

Many of us go to doctor appointments on a fairly routine basis. Each individual harbors a variety of emotions when keeping such appointments. While some of us may have grown comfortable with our practitioners, others, may have had negative experiences that lead to anxious feelings. These uncomfortable feelings may arise from poor bedside manner, negative medical results, or a poor explanation of treatment plans. As a result, these negative circumstances may serve to create a sense of anxiety and emotional distress that can carry over to any future medical appointments. In these situations, a useful approach for turning these bad experiences around is to consider bringing along a spouse, family member or friend that you trust. This can be especially effective during an appointment for an initial consultation.

We at Audiological Consultants of Atlanta highly recommend that when making your first appointment with us that you make arrangements to bring a spouse, family member, or close friend with you. The benefits of having four ears versus two can be of greater benefit than you can imagine. During such an initial appointment a lot of important information will be delivered. And, you will most likely have questions. Having a second set of ears can aid with taking notes regarding what was discussed.

The family member or friend can be act as a key bridge between important information that may be valuable to the Audiologist when discussing medical history, daily challenges that the patient may be experiencing, living situation, safety measures and treatment options. Another key factor of significant importance is that their presence provides helpful moral support. Having a strong support system can really make the patient being evaluated much more at ease, and less anxious regardless of what the results may be. At Audiological Consultants of Atlanta, our Audiologists take the time to educate the patient about the results that were obtained, and demonstrate effective hearing treatment options that may provide help. Having a loved one with you may aid in remembering to ask important questions and ensure that the patient is fully aware of all options, and feels comfortable with what is being explained.

Our staff will always be glad to demonstrate various makes and models of hearing aids, and go through the many benefits and limitations of wearing them. This demonstration can enhance their understanding of what they may have been missing and how life changing hearing aids can be. Hearing a voice that is familiar to you can also be helpful in validating the benefit of new hearing aids.


The entire staff at Audiological Consultants of Atlanta is committed to uncompromised quality and value through our teamwork, compassion, innovative services and personal guidance. We are committed to the success for each patient in making their experience one that is life-changing.

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