Best Tinnitus Treatment
Tinnitus is a problem that is both common and unique. Many people experience it at some point in their lives; one study showed that one person in four has had a brief bout of ringing in the ears and that one in ten suffered through a prolonged spell of steady noise for five minutes or longer. Three percent of the population have known chronic tinnitus. The artist Michelangelo spoke in his memoirs of a sound like incessant crickets, and other people describe tinnitus as static, a hum like that of power lines, buzzing, hissing, swishing, or ringing. It can be defined technically as an abnormal noise which is heard only by the victim, and it can arise in the brain and in the inner, middle, and outer ear. Typically the cause of tinnitus is benign, and while thus far no means has been found to cure it outright, the top ten tinnitus treatments should provide at least one option for anyone to find relief.
TMS or rTMS
One method of treating tinnitus is TMS, which stands for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, and rTMS, which is repetitive TMS. In this treatment, which is also used for a variety of psychiatric and neurological disorders, a magnet is used to activate the brain with a field roughly the same strength as that of an MRI. This magnetic pulse is unhindered by the skull and, because it seldom reaches more than two inches, results in stimulation of the specifically targeted region of the brain. It is noninvasive, causes little discomfort, and works by means of a magnetic field that is changed rapidly, causing small electric currents to alter the activity of the brain.
Tinnitus is not harmful; however, its distraction can be a maddening intrusion into normal daily life. One method of tinnitus treatment is to cover, or mask, that sourceless sound with another. Options include wearable devices, such as those resembling hearing aids, and non-wearable, such as larger sound machines or sources of white noise like a running fan.
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The most effective sound therapies tend to be paired with some type of counseling, but a masking noise alone to decrease the loudness of ringing in the ears, or to draw the attention away from it, is often beneficial. Popular types of sounds for background distraction include birdsong, crickets, ocean waves, the patter of rain, waterfalls, and even the panting of dogs.
CBT, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, targets the sufferer’s emotional response to tinnitus by means of counseling. A counselor using CBT assist a patient in the identification of unwanted thought patterns and behaviors. Once these have been targeted, the counselor can help the patient in altering them. Like sound therapy, CBT is most effective when paired with another tinnitus treatment, such as medication or masking.
Biofeedback is another method which does not seek to disguise or reduce the tinnitus, but rather to changing the patient’s reaction to it. It is a technique for relaxation that allows those who learn it to control particular body functions that are normally autonomic, such as skin temperature, pulse, and muscle tension. By giving the patient control over the body’s reaction to stress, biofeedback allows for more successful stress management when dealing with prolonged or chronic tinnitus.
For some, tinnitus is an underlying symptom of temporomandibular joint, which is the jaw joint dysfunction generally known by its acronym: TMJ. In this case a dentist can often help relieve both the pain of TMJ and the accompanying tinnitus by means of bite realignment or other dental treatment. In some instances, chiropractic treatment has also helped with realignment and the easing of symptoms.
For other tinnitus victims, hearing loss is a prominent problem, and some who wear hearing aids to restore function find that the amplification brings with it partial or even total relief of tinnitus. Success in this instance relies on a variety of variables, but when the hearing loss falls in the same range in frequency as the tinnitus, restoration of hearing can allow a patient to once again hear those background sounds to naturally mask the ringing in the ears.
Cochlear implants are used with patients who are completely or nearly deaf, and consist of several components. Microphones pick up environmental sound, speech processors divide the incoming sound into channels with a prioritization of speech and send the signals via a transmitter behind the ear; those signals go to a receiver beneath the skin and secured in bone, that sends the message to a series of electrodes which have been wound through the cochlea. As with hearing aids, these can return the detection of ambient noises to mask tinnitus. Another possible benefit is the suppression of tinnitus because of the electrical stimulation of the implant.
Vagus nerve stimulation is a treatment still undergoing trial that also makes use of electrical stimulation to treat tinnitus. The vagus nerve is responsible for updating the brain on the condition of the body, and VNS mildly stimulates it in a treatment that has also been approved by the FDA for treating depression and epilepsy, among other illnesses. Treatment of tinnitus requires less than one percent of the stimulation used in those illnesses, and thus is unsurprisingly safe. Electrodes implanted in the neck deliver stimulation from a generator that produces electrical pulses. In one study, half of the patients who tried VNS, and who had suffered from tinnitus for a minimum of a year, benefited from large reductions in symptoms.
While no known medication has been proven clinically to stop tinnitus, many drugs have been studied and more are being researched, and a few experimental treatments have shown promise in relieving it. One study that was effective when tested on tinnitus in an animal model was a GABA agonist drug, or a drug to increase the activity of the brain’s most prevalent inhibitory neurotransmitter, but it has not yet been tested on humans. An open label study with clonazepam also showed preliminary evidence of effectiveness, but further research is required.
As with drugs, the results of homeopathic remedies, mineral supplements, and herbal preparations are mixed and inconclusive. Doctors are often willing to allow a patient to try these solutions, as they generally do not offer much risk to the patient’s health, but they do not offer proven results. Potential treatments include zinc, magnesium, B vitamins, and Ginkgo biloba.
Tinnitus, or ringing in the ear, remains a common problem that can be caused by age, exposure to loud noises, some medications, and for no apparent reason. Very seldom, it is a symptom of more serious problems like brain tumors or aneurysms. A visit to the audiologist is usually called for to evaluate the problem initially, and then generally one or more of the top ten tinnitus treatments is utilized to give its victim relief.