Over a period of five years, I went from an adult with tinnitus to a Doctor of Audiology who specializes in the diagnosis and management of ringing in the ears. Here is my story.
During my undergraduate studies in Charleston, South Carolina, I worked with an audiologist to create a 10-question survey for college students concerning ear plug usage, tinnitus, and concert attendance (n=100). Of respondents, 70% had experienced tinnitus after attending a concert and 90% had never used ear plugs. With the results, I organized a hybrid education and entertainment event called ‘Decibel: Hearing Conservation Seminar’ with a presentation by a local Audiologist. Many of my friends are musicians, music lovers or work in the music industry and experience tinnitus.
Here is picture from my college graduation in Charleston, where it is custom for the men to wear tuxedos!
My interest in tinnitus lead me to apply to a Doctor of Audiology program in San Francisco, California.
While in graduate school, I learned about the relationship between tinnitus and meditation. Dr. Jennifer Gans granted me access to her online mindfulness-based stress reduction program for tinnitus. At the time, I was still developing my interest in mindfulness, meditation, and yoga. I was inspired after learning more about the mindfulness-based tinnitus stress reduction program. It was my first example of how eastern and western medicine can be blended together to create an online self-help program.
I worked at the San Francisco Veteran’s Affairs (SFVA) Medical Center as an audiology intern. Military veterans experienced a significant amount of noise exposure. Many veterans have bothersome tinnitus. At the V.A. we administered the TFI questionnaire (tinnitus functional index), which became an important qualitative measure in my work. With our veterans, we administered a multi-week group program called progressive tinnitus management (PTM). I have tinnitus myself and wanted to completed the workbook to get the experience of the veteran with bothersome tinnitus. From the results, it was clear that my tinnitus did not have a significant negative impact on my daily life.
There are three main questions I ask patients who have tinnitus. Does your tinnitus affect your sleep? Does your tinnitus cause stress? Does your tinnitus distract you from basic activities like reading?
Tinnitus management strategies can be broken down into two categories. First, controlling how sound is presented in the external world. Second, learning how to manage the mind internally. My interest in tinnitus has led me to a fascination with psychology, neuroplasticity, and mindfulness.