DENTON (UNT), Texas — Many veterans suffer from tinnitus and hearing loss as a result of exposure to gunfire, explosions, airplanes and harsh sounds related to military service. The University of North Texas Tinnitus and Hyperacusis Clinic provides comprehensive research, testing, counseling and treatment devices to help vets and other individuals who suffer from this condition.
Commonly known as “ringing in the ears,” tinnitus is caused by nerve damage to the inner ear; it afflicts individuals with a range of chronic and often debilitating sounds that include ringing, buzzing, whooshing and hissing. It is the No. 1 service-related disability of veterans, according to the website of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
“The clinic plays an integral role in the health and welfare of veterans who come to the clinic seeking evaluation and treatment for their tinnitus,” said Dr. Ernest Moore, chair of UNT’s Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences.
The clinic is among a few audiology clinics in the state that integrates treatment with cutting-edge, research-supported technology, Moore said. Patients have access to specialized equipment and procedures developed by a team of faculty experts that pinpoint the nature of tinnitus and the frequency range in which the condition occurs.
Tinnitus can impact a person’s ability to sleep, concentrate or relax, which in turn can affect job and school performance and relationships. These compound conditions can be especially burdensome for vets with trauma or injuries, said Dr. Lana Ward, supervising audiologist and coordinator of clinical audiology at the UNT clinic. No drugs are currently approved by the Federal Drug Administration to treat tinnitus, and those who have the condition need practice and training to manage it.
“Tinnitus can be overwhelming for those who have it, and it might not ever go away,” said Ward. “The clinic specializes in helping patients with tinnitus, and a variety of treatment options are available that essentially train the brain to live with the condition. These include use of hearing devices that mask symptoms by redirecting the brain’s focus to different sounds, which can greatly reduce stress.”
Ward and first- through third-year doctoral student clinicians evaluate patients to identify problems in the middle and inner ear as well as the brain. By identifying the specific pitch and loudness of the offending sound, the clinicians can prescribe hearing devices that emit various sounds to interact with and cover the frequency. The brain hears and accepts the replacement sounds much the same as it would the background hum of a refrigerator.
Counseling and education are essential treatment components of the program. In this way the UNT clinic is unique from other audiology clinics that concentrate on hearing solutions only, Ward said.
The Tinnitus and Hyperacusis Clinic helps patients understand their conditions by reviewing diagnostic results and developing a structured therapy plan designed for maximum relief from symptoms. The clinic provides detailed audiology reports and strategy plans for veterans to share with their primary physicians at Veterans Affairs or other clinics.
About the Tinnitus and Hyperacusis Clinic and the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences
Accredited by the American Speech, Language and Hearing Association, the Tinnitus and Hyperacusis Clinic was established in 2010 as part of the UNT Speech and Hearing Center, serving people with speech, language and hearing disorders since 1967. The Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, housed within the UNT College of Public Affairs and Community Service, combines excellence in teaching speech-language pathology and audiology with research and community service.
Other photos are available to download: