If you’re scheduled for an appointment with an audiologist to get answers about your tinnitus, you might be wondering what to expect. Understanding what will happen can alleviate any uncertainty or stress you may be feeling and help you get prepared. As you might suspect, tinnitus evaluations tend to follow the same process as hearing evaluations, but they’re unique in a few key ways. First, the whole process may take three to four hours, which is a little longer than the typical hearing evaluation.

The interview: gathering your medical background and symptoms

Some audiologists will require you to fill out a medical history and symptoms packet prior to your appointment, but in either case, you’ll need to provide them with as much background and current information about your health as possible. You’ll be asked whether you have any medical conditions like high blood pressure, what medications you’re taking and whether you’ve already been diagnosed with hearing loss. The following is an example list of questions your audiologist may ask to help determine the severity and source of your tinnitus symptoms:

  • How loud is the noise in your ears and how much does it bother you?
  • What does the noise sound like?
  • Is it in both ears or just one?
  • Is it persistent or does it come and go?
  • When did your symptoms start?
  • Does anything improve or worsen your symptoms?
  • Have you been exposed to very loud noises?
  • Have you had an ear condition or injury?

Answering these questions on your own before you reach the office can help you be prepared and will streamline the interview process.

The tests: conducting audiological and tinnitus studies

To determine whether your tinnitus is caused by hearing loss (as it is in about 90 percent of cases), your audiologist will put you through a series of typical hearing tests, along with a few that are more specific to evaluating tinnitus. Then you’ll have a set of tests specific to assessing how your tinnitus sounds to you. This includes tests that help determine the pitch and loudness of your tinnitus, your comfort level with sounds and what pitches and volumes successfully mask it. 

Diagnosis and treatment: discussing the findings and recommending solutions

From the results of these tests and the information you’ve provided, the audiologist will share their findings and diagnosis. If your tinnitus is linked to hearing loss, they’ll recommend treatments for you. Ultimately, an audiologist can provide the most comprehensive treatment for your tinnitus. This might include any of the following:

  • Counseling: Either cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT)
  • Sound therapy: Hearing aids, hearing aids with masking devices, masking devices, or sound-generating machines
  • Biofeedback or stress therapy
  • Drug treatments for tinnitus symptoms
  • Continuing education and awareness groups

Now that you know what to expect from a tinnitus evaluation, you’ll be better prepared to get the most out of the time you have with your audiologist.