Tinnitus is the term used to describe the condition of having ringing, buzzing, or noise in the ear or originating from the head. The word tinnitus is Latin and literally means ringing.
Treating the Cause
Tinnitus can be caused by many things, and is usually a symptom of an underlying condition. The treatment for your particular tinnitus will depend on the condition that is causing it, the severity, any accompanying issues such as hearing loss, and the impact the tinnitus has on daily activities.
Common causes of tinnitus include:
- Hearing loss
- Exposure to loud noises
- Earwax buildup or blockages
- Abnormal bone growth in the ear
- Meniere's disease
- Head or neck injuries
- Benign tumor of the cranial nerve
In order to find out the root cause of your tinnitus, your physician or hearing specialist will conduct a complete medical history, as well as a complete examination.
What Treatments are Available?
Depending on the cause of your tinnitus and other factors, several treatments are available, including medical options as well as alternative therapies.
Minerals such as magnesium or zinc, herbal preparations such as Ginkgo biloba, homeopathic remedies, or B vitamins are sometimes prescribed for relieving tinnitus. Procedures such as acupuncture, cranio-sacral therapy, magnets, hyperbaric oxygen, or hypnosis are also occasionally tried.
Amplification (Hearing Aids)
Some tinnitus patients with hearing loss experience total or partial tinnitus relief while wearing hearing aids. There are many variables that determine success. However, if a patient has a hearing loss in the frequency range of the tinnitus, hearing aids may bring back in the ambient sounds that naturally cover the tinnitus.
Biofeedback is a relaxation technique that teaches people to control certain autonomic body functions, such as pulse, muscle tension, and skin temperature. The goal of biofeedback is to help people manage stress in their lives not by reducing the stress but by changing the body?s reaction to it.
Cognitive Behavioral and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of counseling that is based on treating a patient's emotional reaction to tinnitus rather than the tinnitus itself. To accomplish this desired change in perception, a counselor will help the patient identify negative behaviors and thought patterns, then alter them. Counseling programs are individually designed for patients and are most effective when coupled with other tinnitus treatments, such as masking or medication.
Various treatment strategies utilize sound to decrease the loudness or prominence of tinnitus. Sound therapies can include both wearable (hearing aid-like devices) and non-wearable devices (such as table-top sound machines or even a whirring fan). Often, sound, like white noise, is used to completely or partially cover the tinnitus. Some people refer to this covering of sound as masking. Sound therapies, in general, are most effective when combined with a form of counseling.
Tinnitus can be a symptom of a jaw joint dysfunction (temporomandibular joint, or TMJ). Dental treatment or bite realignment can help relieve TMJ pain and associated tinnitus. Visit your dentist if you think you have TMJ. In addition to audiologists and ENTs, ATA's health provider listing also has many qualified TMJ treatment professionals with expertise in treating TMJ-related tinnitus.
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT)
One treatment that incorporates sound therapy is called Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT), also known as habituation therapy. This therapy attempts to retrain your brain into perceiving the tinnitus in a different way.
About 75% of people with tinnitus are not bothered by it because their brains process it and file it as another everyday noise. TRT tries to teach your brain how to process the noise so that it doesn't bother you anymore (or not as much).
Medications may be an option, especially if they are to treat an underlying condition and relieve its symptoms. However, no medications have been approved specifically for the treatment of tinnitus.
Your physician or hearing specialist will also be able to refer you to psychological treatment or support, as tinnitus can be life-changing and hard to deal with, especially when it is a chronic problem. A tinnitus support group may also be of help.
After treatment has taken place, further maintenance is important. This may include management of associated health problems or ongoing therapies to support health and manage tinnitus.