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Tinnitus is a condition where auditory damage causing conscious ringing in the ears from overexposure or prolonged exposure to loud noises, chronic ear infections, or other health problems such as Meniere's disease. There is approximately 10% of the population who suffer conditions of some form of tinnitus. (Swanepol, Hall 2010). Tinnitus affects not only the elderly and veterans but also many young men and women. Some possible causes are related to noise exposure (military training, construction, concerts), concussions, certain medications, tumors, and increased misuses of iPods and mp3 players.
Tinnitus is more of an underlying symptom than a condition, such as an ear injury or a circulatory system disorder. It happens when an individual hears a sounds, even though there is no external sound causing it. Some people see the symptom as an annoyance. However, there are some severe cases that causes some people to have trouble sleeping or concentrating. Common cognitive symptoms from tinnitus are problems with memory and concentration, insomnia, anxiety, and depression. Other physical symptoms are headaches, dizziness, and pain in the ears. These symptoms can effect and interfere with every day living such as on the job, in the classroom, and social situations.
Various types of tinnitus:
Objective Tinnitus: Caused by muscle deformities or involuntary muscle contractions. This type of tinnitus can also be heard by a doctor, and once it is treated, the patient's tinnitus usually disappears.
Subjective Tinnitus: This type of tinnitus is the most common. This type can only be heard by the individual who is affected, and it causes usually by exposure to excessive noise.
Neurological Tinnitus: A type of tinnitus that is caused by
, which affects the neurological system.
Somatic Tinnitus: This tinnitus is caused and worsened by the body's own sensory system.
The most common cause of tinnitus is when there is a prolong exposure of loud sounds that causes stress to the ear. Delicate and small hairs in the inner ear move in correlation with sound wave pressure. This causes the ear cells to let go a electrical signal through the auditory nerve to your brain, which interprets the signals as sounds. Whenever the hairs in someone's ears are broken or bent, they spill out electrical impulses to the brain, which causes the tinnitus. The causes of tinnitus are often unclear. In some cases, tinnitus is caused because of an infection or blockage in the ear. Some individuals may even have tinnitus because of a chronic beck muscle strain or jaw joint dysfunction (teeth-grinding). Although tinnitus is perceived differently by each person, figuring out the exact diagnosis is essential.
Although there may be no real diagnosis to the symptom, there are other ways to deal with it. Once an underlying condition is treated, the individual's tinnitus may disappear all together. Though, in many cases, the tinnitus continues after the condition has been treated. In cases like this, conventional and alternative therapies might bring relief to the person who has tinnitus.
Some ways of treating the underlying symptom may include, but are not limited to: removing earwax, treating a blood vessel condition, or having a change of medication.
If the diagnosis does not seem to be working, some may find themselves getting treated via noise suppression. White noise, or
noise containing many frequencies with equal intensities
, can be used to deal with the ringing in the ears. White noise devices provide environmental sounds, like rain or the sound of a dryer drying clothes, are effective treatments for tinnitus. Hearing aids and masking devices are also helpful in that they are worn in the ear and provide low-level white noises that suppress the symptoms of tinnitus.
Some medicines may be prescribed to reduce the severity of the complications. Anti-depressants are used for severe tinnitus, and Alprazolam can result to the reduction of tinnitus symptoms.
One major application in Health Information Technology area for tinnitus is telemedicine and e-health. Telemedicine is not only a great tool or approach for patients living far away from hospitals or clinics; it is also a reliable and inexpensive tool for screening, support groups and self-management or monitoring of tinnitus. Tinnitus patients usually have multiple visits to doctors’ office and specialized clinics that can be reduced to save time and money with telemedicine. Telemedicine is a not a total substitution but an alternative convenient tool for screening results before meeting with related healthcare professionals and is usually a complementary exam. (Guitton, 2013).
This is particularly useful when a patient lives far away or has mobile disabilities that hinder making frequent office visits. The patient does not have to leave their home. Programming device specialists are used to customize the software that the tinnitus patient will use. Patients just need access to a computer to run the provided software and headphones. In the review by Swanepol and Hall (2010) it was shown that there were no differences in clinical results between facilitated tele-health set up compared to face-to-face methods for screenings. The tele-health methods were shown to provide consistent and valid results. With telemedicine, web-based resources and support groups are also available to assist tinnitus patients. Using ones own personal computer, patients can connect, relate and support one another during when they need to talk to someone who can be empathic and understanding.
This is especially important in the cognitive issues of anxiety, stress, depression and fear. Telemedicine through cognitive behavior therapy is also used successfully in self-help treatment of tinnitus. The use of worksheets, diaries, information sheets, feedback charts and other e-health tools are utilized. Continued research needs to be done in the areas of telemedicine therapy or treatments for tinnitus to ensure confidentiality, privacy and participation. However, telemedicine is a great healthcare tool for tinnitus patients for screening, diagnosis and self-help.
Telemedicine is an information technology used as a way for patients living in remote or rural areas to have access to personal clinical health practices and a way for healthcare professionals to monitor the patient.
EHealth is a way of providing health information and knowledge such as web portals, video conferencing, mobile monitoring, mobile apps, and more through the Internet.
American Tinnitus Association formed in 1971; provide information on new diagnosis treatments and clinical trials. Also, allows for members to communicate share and support. ATA advocates and encourages new technology such as Telemedicine.
free app for tracking on a smart phone
support group for Tinnitus
Guitton, M.J. (2013). Telemedicine in Tinnitus: Feasibility, advantages, limitations, and perspectives. ISRN Otolaryngology. Retrieved from doi:
Swanepoel, D.W., Hall, J.W. (2010). A systematic review of telehealth applications in audiology. Telemedicine and E-Health.16(2) 181-200. Retrieved from
Youtube: Tinnitus Treatment
Youtube: White Noise Therapy
Mayo Clinic: Tinnitus
American Tinnitus Association
WebMD: Understanding Tinnitus
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