Tinnitus Treatments, Understanding Your Options

Widex Hearing Aids, Hearing Aids Austin

Tinnitus and its Treatments

Up to 45 million Americans suffer from tinnitus, which is the perception of a sound where no external sound stimulation exists. This ghost or phantom sound is normally perceived as a ringing, however it has also been reported as a buzzing, hissing, whistling, swooshing, or clicking. We have said it before here on the blog, but we will say it again, the first thing to understand about tinnitus is that it’s a symptom of a problem, not a disease in and of itself. Consequently, tinnitus usually signals some underlying problem that if curable or treatable will stop the tinnitus. Earwax buildup or other blockages, blood vessel conditions, certain medications, and other underlying conditions can all bring about tinnitus. The first thing to do is to try to identify the cause of the tinnitus and rule out any conditions that need medical or surgical treatment.

In many cases of tinnitus, no specific underlying cause is discovered other than possible associated hearing loss. In those case, it is assumed that the tinnitus is caused by damage to the nerve cells of hearing in the inner ear. Age-related hearing loss, noise-induced hearing loss, and one-time exposure to very loud sounds can all cause tinnitus. Tinnitus that is related to an underlying hearing loss can’t be cured, however it can be treated very effectively. So what are the options for tinnitus treatment available?

Hearing Aids

In general, most cases of tinnitus are connected with some type of hearing loss. In people with hearing loss, there is less stimulation of the auditory cortex of the brain. Researchers believe that the brain changes physically and chemically to accommodate the deficit of stimulation, it is believed that the areas of the brain begin to respond to other stimulation. However, you perceive that stimulation as sound, hence the tinnitus. We really don’t understand what the brain center is responding to, it is thought it could be numerous different stimulus, even just the sound of blood passing through the brain.  Tinnitus in hearing loss is a response to sound deprivation.

Tinnitus and its Treatments

Up to 45 million Americans suffer from tinnitus, which is the perception of a sound where no external sound stimulation exists. This ghost or phantom sound is normally perceived as a ringing, however it has also been reported as a buzzing, hissing, whistling, swooshing, or clicking. We have said it before here on the blog, but we will say it again, the first thing to understand about tinnitus is that it’s a symptom of a problem, not a disease in and of itself. Consequently, tinnitus usually signals some underlying problem that if curable or treatable will stop the tinnitus. Earwax buildup or other blockages, blood vessel conditions, certain medications, and other underlying conditions can all bring about tinnitus. The first thing to do is to try to identify the cause of the tinnitus and rule out any conditions that need medical or surgical treatment.

In many cases of tinnitus, no specific underlying cause is discovered other than possible associated hearing loss. In those case, it is assumed that the tinnitus is caused by damage to the nerve cells of hearing in the inner ear. Age-related hearing loss, noise-induced hearing loss, and one-time exposure to very loud sounds can all cause tinnitus. Tinnitus that is related to an underlying hearing loss can’t be cured, however it can be treated very effectively. So what are the options for tinnitus treatment available?

Hearing Aids

In general, most cases of tinnitus are connected with some type of hearing loss. In people with hearing loss, there is less stimulation of the auditory cortex of the brain. Researchers believe that the brain changes physically and chemically to accommodate the deficit of stimulation, it is believed that the areas of the brain begin to respond to other stimulation. However, you perceive that stimulation as sound, hence the tinnitus. We really don’t understand what the brain center is responding to, it is thought it could be numerous different stimulus, even just the sound of blood passing through the brain.  Tinnitus in hearing loss is a response to sound deprivation.

Sound Therapy

Sound therapy is a relatively broad term used to describe a number of approaches to using external sound to help mask the sounds of tinnitus. In essence the brain focuses on the sound therapy thereby minimizing the intensity of the underlying tinnitus. Sound therapy can be delivered in a variety of ways with a variety of tools. Sound therapy can be delivered through masking devices that are worn or masking devices that sit at the bedside. In the recent past sound therapy can also be delivered through selected hearing aids either as a stand alone feature or mixed with traditional amplification. There are also hearing aid models that can stream sound wirelessly by means of Bluetooth technology from accompanying apps on a phone or just from the music source.streaming movie Perfect Strangers

The kinds of masking sounds utilized may vary, including white noise, pink noise, nature sounds, melodies and music. Widex, a Danish manufacturer has led the way with it’s Zen feature and Zen therapy protocols for many years. However, nearly every hearing aid manufacturer now has some sort of tinnitus therapy feature. With Zen, the sounds can be specifically programmed to correspond to the sound frequency of the patient’s tinnitus, delivering personalized masking relief. Sound therapy is an effective tool, but each patient tends to respond differently to different masking sounds, it’s vital that you work with a experienced hearing professional to get the best from sound therapy.

Behavioral Therapies

Several behavioral therapies exist to help patients address the psychological and emotional elements of tinnitus. One example is mindfulness-based stress reduction, whereby the patient learns to accept the affliction while developing helpful coping techniques. There is also a therapy named Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT), this therapy marries cognitive-behavioral therapy with sound masking therapy. With Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, patients learn to formulate healthy cognitive and emotional reactions to tinnitus while using sound therapy to train their brains to reclassify tinnitus as trivial, so that it can be consciously ignored. It is a slow but effective process that shows really great results.

Drug Therapies

We want to make it very clear, there are currently no FDA-approved medications that have been shown to cure or relieve tinnitus directly. There is also absolutely no herb, mineral, food or natural substance that has been shown to relieve tinnitus. However there are medications that  have been shown to provide some alleviation to patients with severe tinnitus. This medicines do not treat the tinnitus, they treat stress, anxiety, and depression, all of which can render tinnitus worse or are in fact caused by tinnitus itself. The drugs relieve the stress and anxiety which breaks the vicious circle of tinnitus, tinnitus leads to stress and anxiety, stress and anxiety exacerbate tinnitus and so on.

We want to say it again, there are some studies being undertaken on drug therapy for tinnitus, but there are currently no FDA-approved medications that have been shown to cure or relieve tinnitus directly

Experimental Therapies

There is a lot of encouraging research is being carried out in labs and universities worldwide. Researchers continue to search for the underlying neurological cause of tinnitus in the hope that this understanding can lead to an ultimate cure. Several of these experimental therapies have shown real promise, however, they are not yet readily available, and they may never be. If you are struggling with tinnitus, seek out current treatments rather than waiting for any experimental treatment to hit the market. Much of the treatment options being researched are based on electromagnetic stimulation of the auditory brain cortex, although there is some pharmaceutical research ongoing as well.

Here are a few of the experimental therapies currently being evaluated:

1. Repetitive Trans cranial Magnetic Stimulation delivers electromagnetic pulses into the affected brain tissue to lessen the hyperactivity that is believed to cause tinnitus.
http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/repetitive-transcranial-magnetic-stimulation

2. Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation is another means of delivering electromagnetic pulses into the hyperactive brain tissue that is believed to cause tinnitus.
http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/psychiatry/specialty_areas/brain_stimulation/tdcs.html

3. Deep Brain Stimulation is similar to the preceding therapies in its use of electromagnetic energy, the difference being that DBS is an invasive procedure requiring surgery and the placing of electrodes in the brain tissue. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_brain_stimulation

Other medical, surgical, and pharmacological therapies exist, but the outcomes have been mixed at best. Tinnitus is a difficult symptom at present with no clearly effective curative treatment. Scientific research is increasing our understanding of the cause(s) of tinnitus and there are some plausible treatments being researched. So called alternative therapies, however, really have nothing to offer the Patient. Herbs are simply drugs that are not purified and are at best difficult to standardize. If a herb contains an active ingredient that might be effective in treating tinnitus (or any condition) it should be identified, purified, and studied. This has never been the case. The herb Ginkgo which is claimed to be effective for tinnitus is ineffective according to the best available scientific evidence. Craniosacral therapy and homeopathy are both rank pseudo sciences that have no plausibility as treatments and for which there is no evidence of efficacy for anything, including tinnitus.

Treatment For Your Tinnitus

The optimum tinnitus treatment for you is based on several factors, as your local hearing care professionals, we’ll do everything we can to help you find relief from your tinnitus. Set up your appointment today and we’ll find the personalized solution that works best for you, call us on 512-687-1117.

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