Please note: the following information does not constitute professional medical advice, and is provided for general informational purposes only. Please speak to your doctor if you have tinnitus.
Tinnitus, the condition of constant ringing, buzzing or roaring in the ears, is a condition that affects 10 to 15 percent of the population in the United States. Generally, the aged and those who have worked around loud machinery are most often affected, but anyone can develop this condition. There is currently no cure for tinnitus, but a variety of treatments are available to reduce the annoying symptoms. A number of new tinnitus developments are offering hope for those who experience this troubling ear condition.
This therapy uses low-volume, matched pitched sounds that are used to retrain the patient’s brain to a lower sound volume. The sound is produced by a device that the patient wears over a period of time. The notched sound levels accustom the person to the tinnitus symptoms gradually, so that they become less disturbing. These devices operate on a different concept than sound-masking devices, which produce sounds to simply cover the internally produced ear noises.
In 2012, the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry published a study indicating that clonazepam, a benzodiazepine medication, can reduce the loudness and duration of tinnitus symptoms in subjects. The dosing schedule in the trial was closely monitored, and some subjects developed side effects of drowsiness and dizziness.
Acupuncture for Tinnitus
One of the more unexpected tinnitus developments is the use of acupuncture to relieve symptoms. Acupuncture uses very fine needles inserted into the body at specific points to relieve discomfort and improve health. Because tinnitus is related to nerve sensitivity, redirecting nerve impulses, as in acupuncture, can have a beneficial effect for some patients.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Tinnitus
Another of the newer tinnitus developments involves the use of behavioral re-training to manage the symptoms. The therapy involves helping the patient recognize the thought patterns and emotional reactions that contribute to symptoms and can even make symptoms feel worse. It essentially helps to retrain the patient to interpret the sounds and resulting sensations differently. Normally, the internal ear sounds are interpreted as unusual and possibly harmful. This interpretation causes the individual to become more anxious and hypersensitive to the sounds. Therapy retrains them to notice the sound, but not ascribe a negative effect to it. This training reduces anxiety and allows patients to focus their minds on external events.
Although tinnitus can be an annoying problem, patients can learn to manage the symptoms so that the unexpected sounds have less of an impact on their normal activities.