Editor’s Note: One of the things I love about Tucson is even though it is close to a million people in the metro area, it still feels small town in some ways. Being a Wyoming girl I am nostalgic for the small town feel. Most of the Audiologists and Hearing Aid Dispensers are kind to each other and like to see each other and chat at our local educational seminars. Cristi Moore, AuD, our Guest Blogger this week, is one of those Audiologists that I meet through other audiologists and what a kind soul she is. I asked her to write a blog on the first Tinnitus Support Group Tucson has had in many years. Here was her experience:
The tinnitus support group went very well. We had 22 people attend our first meeting, which was held on Sept 22nd. We will be having this support group on the 3rd Saturday of each month, from roughly September through May. Our next meeting will be held on Oct 20th. If we get a lot of support, it may go year round. We will have to see. The turn-out really solidified the need for this type of support in the Tucson community.I have tinnitus and have had since I was a young child. I know first-hand what it is like to live with this condition and I understand, just how annoying it can be.
The topic of discussion for this first meeting was Tinnitus, the Audiology Perspective. In that presentation, I covered what tinnitus is, that it is a neurological phenomenon, not just an ear related condition. I discussed the possible causes of tinnitus, such as prescription and OTC drugs, long-term excessive noise exposure, hearing loss, diseases and infections, stress and vascular disease. Research has determined that most tinnitus originates in the limbic system of the brain. This part of the brain is responsible for personality traits, music appreciation and our fight or flight response.
This brings me to my next topic, which is treatment for tinnitus. There are a lot of treatments available, including supplements, hearing aids, sound therapy, Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT), and others. Based on the MarkeTrak VIII study published in Nov 2011, the majority of tinnitus sufferers found relief through the use of hearing aids and music. Some of the participants in the audience used Widex hearing aids with the Zen program and found relief from their tinnitus. That program uses fractal music tones, which is thought to stimulate the limbic system, therefore providing a distraction to the tinnitus. The brain will then want to pay attention to the musical tones instead of the tinnitus. What makes this type of therapy unique is that it is not masking the tinnitus, but actually retraining the brain, so that habituation can occur.
Habituation is also the thought behind some of the newer sound therapy treatment devices such as Soundcure’s Serenade. The Serenade is based on research conducted at the University of California Irvine. S-Tones were developed, which are music-like tones, that help the brain learn to habituate to those sounds instead of paying attention to the tinnitus. The device is small and portable and can be programmed specifically for the patient and his/her tinnitus pitch and levels. There seems to be a great deal of interest in the product, so I am hopeful that this will be one more tool available to those suffering with tinnitus.
Overall, the group dynamics at our first meeting wee diverse and there was a great deal of participation. I look at this as a wonderful opportunity to show people that tinnitus is something that they don’t have to live with. There is help, there is treatment and there is support available.
Cristi A. Moore, Au.D, F/AAA is a practicing audiologist in Tucson, AZ. She is currently the owner of Sonora Hearing Care, LLC. Dr. Moore has been an audiologist since 2000 and has worked in a variety of hearing care settings including the VA, corporate audiology, hearing aid manufacturing, and private practice. She earned her Doctor of Audiology degree in 2007 from A.T. Still University-Arizona School of Health Sciences. She also volunteers her time each month with the Tucson chapter of the Adult Loss of Hearing Association (ALOHA), facilitating the new tinnitus support group.