Tinnitus Treatment OptionsTinnitus 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.
Possible causes of tinnitus include:
- Hearing loss
- Exposure to loud noise
- Earwax buildup
- Abnormal bone growth in the ear
- Meniere's disease
- Stress and depression
- Head or neck injuries
- Benign tumor of the cranial nerve
- Medication side effects
- TMJ symptoms
In order to find out the root cause of your tinnitus, your physician or audiologist 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.
A common treatment is acoustic therapy or sound therapy. Sound therapy makes use of sounds to help the brain re-focus and diminish the emotional impact of the tinnitus. Sound therapy devices can also include amplification options, so treating hearing loss and tinnitus can occur simultaneously.
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 audiologist 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.
HERE ARE A FEW TIPS FROM THE AMERICAN TINNITUS ASSOCIATION:
Diagnose and Understand Your Tinnitus
- DO NOT panic. Tinnitus is usually not a sign of a serious, ongoing medical condition.
- CHECK things out. The sounds you hear may actually be normal sounds created by the human body at work.
- SEE an audiologist interested and experienced in tinnitus treatment. (Dr. Badstubner with Elite Audiology Resources is a local tinnitus expert!)
- REVIEW your current medications (prescription, over-the-counter, vitamins and other supplements) with your medical professional to find possible causes of your tinnitus.
- BE WARY of a hopeless diagnosis or physician advice like, “There’s nothing you can do about your tinnitus. Go home and live with it.”
- BE a detective. Keep track of what triggers your tinnitus.
- KEEP UP TO DATE about tinnitus. More and more research by the best and the brightest is bringing us closer to successful treatments and cures for tinnitus.
Take Care of Yourself
- BE KIND to yourself. Developing tinnitus means you have undergone a significant physical, emotional and maybe even life-style change.
- EXAMINE how you live to find ways to eliminate or reduce some stress in different parts of your life; stress often makes tinnitus worse.
- PAY ATTENTION to what you eat. One-by-one, eliminate possible sources of tinnitus aggravation, e.g., salt, artificial sweeteners, sugar, alcohol, prescription or over-the-counter medications, tobacco and caffeine. (Do not stop taking medications without consulting with your health care professional.)
- DON’T GIVE UP on a treatment if it doesn’t work right away. Some can take quite a while to have a positive effect.
- PROTECT YOURSELF from further auditory damage by avoiding loud places and by using earplugs when you can’t avoid loud noise.
Your Attitude Matters
- DO NOT create any negative forecasts for your tinnitus, such as “This is never going to get any better.” Counting on a better future can help you create one.
- TAKE HEART. In many cases people with tinnitus “habituate” to it, meaning they get used to it and notice it less than at first.
- BE INVOLVED in your recovery. Consider yourself part of your treatment team where your thoughts and feelings should count.
- DO NOT WASTE time blaming yourself for your tinnitus. The causes of tinnitus are varied and difficult to determine.
Line Up Support
- LOCATE people who understand your struggles and learn that you are not alone. Have people in your life who , though they cannot “see” or "hear" your tinnitus, understand that you have it.
- EDUCATE your family, friends and co-workers about tinnitus; tell them about the conditions and settings that are difficult for you; and ask them for their support.
- CONTINUE SEEKING reliable information from credible sources.