What do William Shatner, Pete Townshend and David Letterman have in common? Here’s a hint: It’s there almost all the time, it can keep you awake at night and it’s terribly irritating for many who have it.
If you are one of the 50 million people in the United States who lives with it, you probably guessed correctly – tinnitus.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, more than 27 percent of seniors ages 65-84 have tinnitus, which is sometimes the first sign of hearing loss in seniors.
If tinnitus is a source of frustration for you, the first step is educating yourself. Pacific Hearing Service has scheduled four Tinnitus and Hearing Open Houses 2:30 and 6 p.m. Jan. 29 and 30 at 496 First St., Suite 120, in Los Altos, and 3555 Alameda de las Pulgas, Suite 100, in Menlo Park. Space is limited, so reservations are encouraged.
Attendees will have the opportunity to hear from audiologists who specialize in the management of tinnitus and hearing loss as well as representatives from SoundCure and Widex.
Tinnitus is most commonly experienced as a ringing, hissing or roaring sound in the ears. Surprisingly, scientists believe tinnitus actually originates in the brain, not the ears. When there is damage of some sort to the inner-ear hair cells, the brain interprets the abnormal signal as sound. This causes tinnitus.
What causes the damage in the first place? There are many possibilities, including exposure to loud noises (a likely cause of Townshend’s tinnitus!), earwax blockage, head or neck injuries and age-related hearing loss. There are also some medical conditions and medications that cause tinnitus, so it’s a good idea to consult your physician if you have persistent tinnitus.
There is no cure for tinnitus, but there are treatments that have proven to be effective. The American Tinnitus Association reports that one of the most effective forms of treatment is sound therapy. Two sound therapy options available are the SoundCure Serenade and Widex Zen sound therapy.
The Serenade is a handheld device that uses customized sounds called “S-tones.” Widex Zen therapy employs fractal tones in an ear-level device that also functions as a hearing aid for those with hearing loss.
For more information on Pacific Hearing Service or the open houses, call 941-0664 (Los Altos) or 854-1980 (Menlo Park) or visit www.pacifichearingservice.com.
Audiologist Deborah Clark is co-owner of Pacific Hearing Service.