Tinnitus Care Provider Talks About Treating the Condition
Tinnitus and Hearing Health Calgary’s Bonita Chow can help people with tinnitus manage their condition.
If you experience noises in your ears that aren’t coming from your external environment, such as ringing, buzzing or hissing, then you are one of 360,000 Canadians living with a condition known as tinnitus. Within this group, more than 150,000 are bothered enough by their symptoms to seek help. For many people, the worst part of having tinnitus can be the feeling it can’t be escaped; these sounds can become annoying and follow you everywhere. Tinnitus is a phantom sound caused by your brain trying to compensate for damage to your hearing system. “It’s a very common phenomenon that’s almost always associated with hearing loss,” says Bonita Chow, Calgary’s first Tinnitus Care Provider audiologist. Tinnitus can raise your stress levels and reduce your quality of life. “You can’t enjoy quiet activities like reading a book. It can affect your sleep. There is never any peace and quiet,” Chow says. While there is no cure for tinnitus, Chow can help those with the condition learn to manage it. Treatment starts with going beyond a standard hearing test. “I take the time to measure the impact the tinnitus is having on each person because everyone is affected in different ways,” she says. “My specialized assessments are designed to delve into the auditory system and look for any areas of damage, as well as measuring the tinnitus itself.” After thoroughly assessing her patients, Chow gives them strategies for relief. “We can’t make tinnitus go away, but we ensure it doesn’t affect your quality of life,” she says. Treating any underlying hearing loss can also help relieve tinnitus. In such cases, Chow fits patients with special hearing aids that deal with hearing loss and tinnitus at the same time. For hearing loss, these discreet devices amplify external sounds to stimulate the damaged areas of your auditory system. Meanwhile, for tinnitus relief, they also emit soothing sounds such as chimes, ocean waves or white noise. The treatment reduces your awareness of your tinnitus; eventually, you stop noticing it. “You don’t have to just live with it. Being proactive about your auditory health means that you take control over your tinnitus,” says Chow. “It does not control you.”