The Tinnitus program at the Speech and Hearing clinic is patterned after an evidenced based step-by-step program developed by the Veterans Administration and the National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research (NCRAR) in Portland, Oregon called Progressive Audiologic Tinnitus Management or PATM. This program teaches you to manage your reaction to the tinnitus. 

PATM is called progressive because it utilizes levels of support depending on what is needed. Some people with tinnitus only need basic questions answered. Other people need more than that. PATM does use sound therapy, however it differs from other methods because it teaches a person how to use sound to manage tinnitus. PATM also uses counseling methods based on Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, and includes techniques for learning relaxation and deep breathing. 

Assessment

The first step to this program is a full hearing evaluation and workup. If you have a hearing loss in addition to tinnitus, we’ll discuss ways to correct your hearing loss. That might also include a feature on the hearing aid that has the ability to produce sounds that can divert your attention from the tinnitus. A hearing assessment is not necessary if a patient has received a comprehensive audiogram within the past 6 months by an audiologist.

You will be given a series of Tinnitus surveys and questionnaires which will help guide the audiologist in making a specific recommendation for you.  In these sessions, you may learn how to change your reactions to tinnitus with:

  • sound therapy
  • relaxation technique training
  • activities to help you enjoy life and get your mind off tinnitus
  • how to change the way you think about your tinnitus

For patients with severe tinnitus, additional support through one-on-one counseling sessions with an audiologist and/or mental health care provider may be recommended. Services for psychology or mental health counseling are not included in the cost of audiology services. 

Billing

The University of Washington Speech and Hearing Clinic does not bill insurances for evaluations or treatment. However, we are happy to provide you with applicable invoices for you to request reimbursement from your own insurance. Tinnitus services are not typically covered by insurance. 

Tinnitus FAQs

What is tinnitus?

  • Tinnitus is humming, ringing, buzzing or other sounds in the ears or head.

What causes tinnitus?

  • The most common cause of tinnitus is exposure to loud noise. Tinnitus can also be caused by head injury, medications, ear wax and many other causes. For many people, it is impossible to know the exact cause of tinnitus.

Is tinnitus in my ears or in my brain?

  • For those with hearing loss, the brain may be compensating for missing sound with the auditory neurons firing in a self-sustaining loop, producing a constant ringing. For tinnitus sufferers, current research points to neuroplastic alterations in the central auditory pathway (brainstem). Brain regions that deal with attention, arousal, and emotions are also involved in the experience of tinnitus - the condition defined not just by the sound, but by how people react to it.

Does my tinnitus make it harder for me to hear?

  • Many people have hearing problems along with tinnitus. Significant hearing loss makes it difficult to hear what people say, but tinnitus, in and of itself, does not interfere with understanding speech. However, the attention you may be giving to your tinnitus may alter your ability to attend to the speaker.

Are there any drugs that help?

  • All drugs used for tinnitus were actually developed for other problems– such as depression, anxiety and trouble sleeping. Some of these drugs can improve your mood. Some drugs can make tinnitus louder. To see if a medication may help you, consult your medical doctor.

Is there a cure for tinnitus?

  • A “cure” would be some way to make the tinnitus sound stop. Right now, there is no safe or proven way to stop tinnitus. However, there are many ways to feel better without making tinnitus "go away".

Additional Resources

National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research (NCRAR)
http://www.ncrar.research.va.gov/

American Tinnitus Association
http://www.ata.org/

Oregon Hearing Research Center
http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/health/services/ent/research/ohrc-research/index.cfm

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/noiseinear.asp