It is important to keep in mind that tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease. As such, the optimal treatment strategy should be directed toward eliminating the disease, rather than simply alleviating the symptom. Also, because tinnitus may be symptomatic of a more serious disorder, it is important to try to find the medical cause before deciding on treatment.
Here are a few things patients can do to help prevent and minimize tinnitus:
While there is no known cure for most forms of tinnitus, there are many management options available and most tinnitus sufferers can find varying degrees of relief from one or a combination of the following.
There is no single medication that works on all tinnitus patients. Some of the antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications available are helpful for certain tinnitus patients, however more research is needed in this area.
These techniques consist of two main components — directive counseling and low level sound generators.
The use of an externally produced sound to either cover up or in some way inhibit or alter production of tinnitus can offer relief for some. There are six main methods of acoustic stimulation.
Unfortunately, some tinnitus sufferers find that masking noise may merely be a substitute of one annoying sound for another. It is thus better to try to relegate the annoyance of tinnitus to the background of one's consciousness through habituation or retraining methods.
Many patients find that music, particularly classical passages that don't contain wide variations in loudness (ampliltude) can be both soothing to the limbic system (the emotional processor in the brain that is commonly negatively linked to a patient's reaction to tinnitus) and stimulating to the auditory cortex. If a hearing loss is present, it may be necessary to alter the spectrum of the music so that the cortical neurons.
The use of hearing aids and a combination of hearing aids and maskers are often effective ways to minimize tinnitus. While it is not clear whether hearing aids help by amplifying background sounds that can mask out the tinnitus or by actually altering the production of tinnitus, most hearing aid wearers report at least some reduction in their tinnitus. This may be due to the reduction in contrast between tinnitus and silence, or because of the new stimulation provided to the brain.
Neuromonics Acoustic Desensitization Protocol is a process that uses counseling as well as a body worn processor connected to high fidelity earphones that present pleasant music that is filtered in accordance with an individuals hearing loss.
Regardless of the cause of tinnitus, if a person is not bothered by the tinnitus, it ceases to be a problem. Psychological intervention aimed at successfully reducing the stress, distress and distraction associated with the tinnitus can be very productive and often produces the most attainable goals.
The very high correlation between stress and tinnitus disturbance underscores the need to maintain one's composure and logic when trying to cope with tinnitus. Relaxation, guided imagery and self-hypnosis are examples of self-help methods used to help combat the stress, anxiety and sleep disturbances associated with tinnitus.
Other options that may help patients with tinnitus include:
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.