Tinnitus is the perception of sound inside the head, sometimes described as high-pitched ringing, buzzing, chirping or clicking. Hyperacusis is an abnormal intolerance to sounds. Often these conditions occur together. Both tinnitus and hyperacusis can greatly impact an individual's ability to perform daily tasks or enjoy life. The American Tinnitus Association estimates that as many as 50 million Americans experience tinnitus.
Penn Medicine's Tinnitus and Hyperacusis Program is part of the Division of Audiology within the Department of Otorhinolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. Located at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, the Program focuses on state-of-the-art diagnosis and treatment of these challenging problems.
Diagnosis, Evaluation and Treatment Services
Although there is no known cure for tinnitus and hyperacusis, there are various treatment options available to patients. The ultimate goal of the Program is to provide a comprehensive, individualized evaluation and treatment plan specifically tailored for each patient.
A significant component of the treatment strategy focuses on decreasing the patient's awareness and perception of their tinnitus. If you are interested in participating in the treatment program, you must receive medical clearance from an otorhinolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat physician) and a comprehensive hearing test to assess for hearing loss. It is important to determine that an underlying medical condition causing the tinnitus has been ruled out before embarking on selected treatment recommendations.
A patient's first appointment consists of a comprehensive two-hour evaluation that includes detailed questionnaires, a thorough patient interview, measurement of the patient's tinnitus perception and sound tolerance levels, otoacoustic emissions and a discussion of all test results. Additionally, we spend time on patient education, discussion of tinnitus generation theories, tinnitus interference with daily life tasks and the options for sound therapy treatment to decrease the perception of tinnitus.
If sound therapy is determined to be appropriate for you following the diagnostic testing, you will schedule additional appointments for both the fitting of the sound device(s) used for therapy and for the monitoring of treatment progress. The options for sound therapy offered through the program include:
- Ear-level sound generators
- Hearing aids (for audiologically appropriate candidates)
- Combination devices (hearing aid plus sound generator in one device)
You and your audiologist will work together to determine which device option is most appropriate to generate the best result. Patients who opt for a sound therapy device are followed closely for 12 months at pre-determined intervals, allowing for ongoing counseling and monitoring of progress.