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Mon, July 22

Tinnitus affects millions, has no cure

McQuaid, stands next to a poster illustrating the makeup of the inner ear.

Courier/Les Stukenberg

"Usually tinnitus is associated with people who have loud noise exposure," he added. "I suggest always wearing ear protection to reduce the noise problems."

Also, McQuaid said tinnitus is "associated with hearing loss, and it's more common in older people with age-related hearing loss."

As of now, McQuaid and Krumbholz said there is no cure for tinnitus, and millions of people around the country suffer from it.

"Once you have it, it doesn't go away," McQuaid said.

When a person gets tinnitus, he noted that physical, emotional and psychological stress can worsen it.

Though there is no cure, McQuaid said there are a few things people who have this unfortunate hearing condition can do to live with it.

For example, there are hearing instruments that look similar to hearing aids that people can wear to help mask the sounds of tinnitus.

"They can help but they don't always help," McQuaid said.

Krumbholz added that "they generate a masking sound that helps the perceived loudness of the ringing in the ears. When tinnitus is reduced, it becomes less annoying to the person."

Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) is also a helpful way of dealing with tinnitus. It uses a structured educational program called "directive counseling," according to a journal called "Tinnitus Today."

"Masking also uses counseling but more informally," the journal states. "Its main focus is on 'sound therapy' to provide immediate tinnitus relief. TRT uses sound therapy very differently with the goal to cause patients to stop paying attention to their tinnitus."

Also, "clinics report that 45 percent to 69 percent of masking patients and 77 percent to 88 percent of TRT patients significantly improve."

As Krumbholz points out, masking tinnitus "gives people a lot of relief because it can make you go crazy, but it's masking it, not eliminating it."

To help prevent tinnitus, McQuaid offers these words of advice: "Always be aware of loud sounds around you and wear protection."

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