A variety of means of combating tinnitus have been attempted over the years. Except for some local anesthetics, which cannot be used as a continuous treatment due to their side effects, there is no effective drug that alleviates tinnitus. Other treatments providing some relief for select patients include masking, surgery, electrical stimulation, biofeedback, acupuncture, TMJ treatment, and various pharmacological agents. Some of these treatments (notably biofeedback and acupuncture), while not directly beneficial to the tinnitus itself, can be useful in reducing stress and thereby is valuable as an adjunctive treatment to any tinnitus management program.
Negative counseling is very unfortunately one of the most common approaches to tinnitus management. It is unfortunate, as the information given to the tinnitus sufferer is unfounded and untrue. Typically negative counseling comes in words such as, “Nothing can be done for tinnitus. You’ll just have to learn to live with it.” If you have received such counseling, rest assured, something can indeed be done to lessen your tinnitus significantly.
There has been no specific and reliable drug treatment found for tinnitus relief. The potential side effects, tolerances to medications, developed dependence andsequent withdrawals must be considered in any attempted drug therapy aimed at tinnitus.
If surgically correctable ear pathology is the origin of tinnitus, surgery for remediation of the pathology may alleviate the tinnitus.
Biofeedback and hypnotherapy can help decrease tinnitus through the relaxation and lessened stress that may accompany or follow such treatments. While the success of these techniques used in isolation has been varied, they may have considerable value when used in conjunction with other treatment methods.
Direct relief from tinnitus through acupuncture has not been demonstrated. However, its benefits as a treatment to decrease stress and anxiety may make it useful as an adjunct to other treatment methods.
Although the masking of tinnitus is not a true masking, but rather a suppression of the tinnitus, it has proven beneficial for some individuals. Maskers are used in an attempt to cover up the individual’s perception of the tinnitus with an external sound that competes with the tinnitus. Masking can be attempted through the use of head-worn noise generators or commercial recordings of various sounds (often ocean waves, light rainfall, or waterfalls). The potential benefits of the actual suppression that may take place may be augmented by the enhanced relaxation such sounds may engender.
Many tinnitus suffers have a coexisting hearing loss of some degree. Sometimes the loss of hearing is not sufficient to create problems with communication but is sufficient in degree to reduce the natural effects of environmental sounds on the reduction of tinnitus perception. Through the use of hearing aid amplification, many tinnitus sufferers find tinnitus relief during the hours of hearing aid use. Hearing aids are possibly the most common first-line treatment method for tinnitus relief.
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) involves several counseling sessions, the use of external sound, and frequently the use of sound devices. TRT involves a retraining of theconscious parts of the brain to ignore the sound of tinnitus and to achieve a stage in which one is not aware of, or annoyed by, the tinnitus. There are no side effects to TRT. TRT can take up to 12– 24 months to reach completion; however, for those who carefully follow the protocol, improvement should be seen within half a year.