An Auditory Processing Disorder

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                                                                                   patient education


An Auditory
Processing Disorder

           he sensation of ringing, buzzing or roaring sounds in the ear(s) or head when no
           external sounds are being made is called tinnitus. This condition may range from a
           temporary experience of a few seconds to being chronic. It may be intermittent or
           sustained. It may be in one ear, both ears, or the origin may not be understood by the      Because tinnitus frequently is reported
           patient. It may be loud or soft. It may bother the patient more during some times of     as more annoying at night when there are
           the day, such as nighttime, more than others.1,2                                         fewer surrounding noises and patients may
                                                                                                    be trying to sleep, audiologists sometimes
             Testing for Tinnitus                    is functioning normally. Additionally, the     may recommend sound-producing systems
Tinnitus often is a symptom caused by some audiologist typically asks a series of ques-             that are placed beside a patient’s bed. The
underlying physiological problem. Therefore, tions about ear involvement, type of sounds            sounds from the device help to cover up
the first initiative in helping a patient is to per- heard, when the sounds are most prevalent,     or distract the patient’s perception of the
form tests that will help determine the cause sound pitch, sound volume, consistency of             annoying tinnitus.
of the tinnitus. An examination is helpful the sound, etc.                                             Some patients also benefit from counseling
to find possible underlying physical causes.                                                        therapy, auditory rehabilitation therapy or a
There are many causes of tinnitus. Wax in Treating Tinnitus                                         combination of both. Counseling therapy
a person’s ear, blood pressure, medications, Following medical and audiological exam-               frequently focuses on treatment of emotional
allergies, noise exposure, disease of the audi- inations, tinnitus treatment may take one           distress that may be the result of the effects
tory system, and cardiovascular abnormalities of several forms. Physical abnormalities              of experiencing tinnitus. Auditory rehabili-
are a few possible reasons why tinnitus may are treated medically or surgically; some-              tation therapy focuses on how to maximize
be experienced. It is common for the patient’s times effective treatment may require both.          listening techniques in the presence of
physician and audiologist to collaborate test- Unfortunately, many of the causes of tinni-          tinnitus to optimize what the patient hears.
ing and managing a patient with tinnitus.1,2         tus are not resolved medically or surgically
  An audiologist is an important part of the because the reason for the tinnitus is not Team Approach
testing process. The audiologist administers known. Abnormalities that are not medically Tinnitus can be a disabling condition. The
a set of basic and advanced ear and hear- or surgically treatable typically are managed purpose of recognizing, diagnosing and
ing tests to determine if the auditory system by an audiologist.1,2                                 treating tinnitus is to improve the quality
                                                        A variety of therapies have been used to of a patient’s life. Effective treatment fre-
   FOR MORE INFORMATION:                             treat tinnitus, including drug therapy, coun- quently involves the patient, a physician and
  • American Academy of Audiology                    seling and tinnitus maskers. Combinations an audiologist. Fortunately, a systematic           of treatments are sometimes used. What team approach can often improve the qual-
                                                     works for one patient may not necessarily ity of life for patients who seek and receive
  • American Tinnitus Association
                                                     work for another patient.                      professional help. $
                                                        Tinnitus maskers have had reasonable suc-
  • Better Hearing Institute                         cess with many patients. These devices look REFERENCES:        like hearing aids, but they work by emitting     1. American Speech Language Hearing Asso-
  • National Institute on Deafness and               sound into the ear. The purpose of the tin- ciation, accessed online at

      Other Communications Disorders                 nitus masker is to help cover up the patient’s    2. Oregon Health and Science University,                perception of tinnitus or to distract atten- accessed online at
     /noiseinear.asp                                 tion from it. For tinnitus patients who also clinic.
  • Tinnitus Practitioners Association               have hearing loss, a hearing aid and tinnitus                   masker are sometimes combined into one unit      Jonathan R. Brown, PhD, CCC-A, CED, is a
     /understanding_tinnitus.html                    that provides both amplification and masking     professor at Clarion University, Clarion, PA.
                                                     to help cover up the patient’s tinnitus.