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Additional Services

Hearing loss is one of the most common conditions affecting the ear, but millions of people also experience other problems that require proper diagnosis and treatment beyond hearing aids. San Francisco, Sacramento, and other Northern California patients trust Kaiser Permanente Hearing Centers to provide several additional services for people living with certain conditions affecting the ear.

Symptom: Constant Ringing in the Ears

Our Service: Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT)

Tinnitus is the perception of any sound in the head or ears with no associated external source. Tinnitus is a common problem, affecting about 50 million Americans. 10 million of these people suffer from a more noticeable or severe form of the condition. The causes of tinnitus can be wide-ranging. They often include hearing loss, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome, and the use of certain medications. In addition to ringing in the ears, about 40% of tinnitus patients experience decreased tolerance to sounds, a condition called hyperacusis.

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People with tinnitus are encouraged to follow up with their primary care providers. In many cases, the PCP will order an audiologic evaluation to rule out hearing loss and other possible causes. Tinnitus is rarely curable. While some people simply learn to live with the condition, others explore treatment options such as tinnitus retraining therapy, or TRT. This therapy uses a combination of sound therapy and counseling to help patients learn to ignore the more pronounced, extraneous sounds they are hearing. While TRT is not a cure for tinnitus, it can help decrease the annoyance associated with it.

Symptom: Balance Problems and Dizziness

Our Service: Vestibular Testing

As you may know, many balance problems can originate when there is something wrong with the mechanisms in the inner ear. This area is known as the vestibular portion of the ear. Through vestibular testing, your audiologist can check your inner ear health and often isolate dizziness symptoms to a specific cause that can be treated.

While dizziness and a loss of balance often can be attributed to inner ear conditions, these symptoms also can be caused by the brain, medical disorders such as low blood pressure, or psychological problems such as anxiety. Vestibular testing assists in determining the source of your symptoms. Vestibular tests also can be used to document conditions such as vertigo that often occur following head injury or as a side effect of certain medications.

If you are living with constant ringing in your ears, dizziness, or balance problems, contact your primary care physician to find out more about the available treatment options.

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Symptom: Complete Loss of Hearing or Severe Hearing Loss

Our Service: Cochlear Implants

A cochlear implant is a small, electronic device that can help provide a sense of sound for people who are profoundly deaf or have severe hearing loss. This implant consists of an electrode that is surgically placed into the cochlea of the inner ear and an external speech processor that is worn to communicate with the internal implant. Unlike a hearing aid, which amplifies sound, a cochlear implant bypasses damaged portions of the ear and directly stimulates the auditory nerve. While the hearing sensation provided through cochlear implants differs from normal hearing, these devices allow many people to recognize warning signals, such as a smoke alarm, understand other sounds in the environment, and even engage in conversation.

Cochlear implants can be appropriate for both children and adults. After implementation, the patients may need special therapy to learn or re-learn speech and hearing skills. In particular, children may need this therapy to help them acquire speech, language, and social skills. Your audiologist can provide you with more information about the benefits of cochlear implants and the factors you’ll need to think about when you consider this procedure for yourself or your child.

Symptom: Conductive or Mixed Hearing Loss; Sensorineural Hearing Loss Only in One Ear

Our Service: BAHA

A bone-anchored hearing aid (BAHA) is implanted behind the ear and works through direct bone conduction, bypassing both the ear canal and middle ear. BAHA aids are FDA approved for the treatment of mixed and conductive hearing loss, as well as sensorineural hearing loss that occurs only in 1 ear. BAHA aids are ideal for people who cannot wear a traditional hearing aid due to conditions such as a missing ear canal, nonfunctional middle ear, or draining ears.

The BAHA aid consists of a titanium implant, an external abutment, and a sound processor. The surgical procedure needed to implant the device generally lasts less than 1 hour and is performed on an outpatient basis. These devices have been successfully used to improve hearing for more than 30 years.

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