There is no universal cure for tinnitus, but there are treatments that make it less of a distraction. Because tinnitus is often a side effect of an underlying condition, identifying the problem may lead to a medical or surgical solution.
Unfortunately, in many cases the exact cause of tinnitus can’t be identified. However, symptoms can often be managed successfully through a number of different strategies.
Sounds are used to cover up, or mask, the tinnitus. This distracts your brain and helps you “tune out” the ringing in your ears. Electronic devices that produce white noise, air conditioners, fans, soft music, etc. can all be employed.
Tinnitus retraining therapy
Similar in concept to acoustic therapy, tinnitus retraining therapy utilizes a portable sound generator that produces soft patterned tones to help desensitize the brain to the sounds of tinnitus.
Meniere’s disease (also known as endolympatic hydrops) has a triad of symptoms (hearing loss, tinnitus, vertigo) that fluctuate due to increased fluid pressures in the ear organs. Fluctuation of hearing and resulting tinnitus can be treated with a series of injections of Dexamethasone (a potent steroid) with a reasonable chance of reduction in tinnitus symptoms.
If you have an acoustic neuroma and suffer from tinnitus, the tinnitus may be resolved through a surgical removal of the acoustic neuroma. In a 1981 research study of more than 400 patients, 45 percent improved their tinnitus with the surgical removal of the acoustic neuroma.
Additionally, those who undergo surgery for Meniere’s disease may see improvement with their tinnitus, even though most surgeries performed for this condition are done primarily to alleviate dizziness and vertigo.
Hearing loss causes maladaptive neuroplastic changes in the brain. Hearing aids are used to stimulate the auditory pathways received by the brain. Background sounds can mask tinnitus. Hearing aids can also help the patient better distinguish one sound from another, improving communication and helping with focus and concentration difficulties. Many devices also come packaged with noise generators to replace ambient sounds if amplification alone does not reduce tinnitus. Newer hearing aid technologies allow a person to hear more of the outside world, and less of the annoying internal head noise that is tinnitus.
Counseling, sleep and cognitive behavioral or relaxation methods can be practical in helping you manage your tinnitus symptoms by reducing the stress, anxiety and sleeplessness that are often associated with tinnitus. North Alabama ENT providers can teach methods to help some patients manage tinnitus symptoms.
Do you experience a ringing in your ears? If so, you are not alone. Tinnitus affects an estimated 50 million Americans—about 20 percent of the population. It can range from a mild annoyance to a full-fledged problem that severely impacts your quality of life.
Call North Alabama ENT Associates at (256) 536-9300 for more information or to schedule an appointment.