What Are the Current Options for the Treatment of Tinnitus?
Although it may be of little comfort for those in whom the symptoms are permanent, the majority of people who experience the ringing and various other phantom sounds in their ears, the sensation, which is known as tinnitus, is only a temporary phenomenon that disappears spontaneously and requires no treatment. However, for those who make up the small percentage of sufferers in whom this is not the case, living day after day with these persistent, intrusive noises can be extremely debilitating.
While there are many options in the form of professional help, there are several ways in which those affected may also be able to help themselves. Although there is no definitive evidence to suggest that these phantom noises are the result of stress, there can be no doubt that constantly stressing about them does tend to intensify the symptoms. If you are a tinnitus sufferer, an effective treatment that can help to reduce the intensity of the symptoms, and one you can apply wherever you are, is to simply relax. Once you focus on your body, you will become aware of tense muscles and can relax them. Just slowing your breathing can work wonders.
You are certain to have noticed that the phantom sounds become more evident during periods of silence. By playing a little background music or opening a window to admit some ambient noise, you can divert your attention from the ringing, buzzing, hissing, or whirring sounds that tend to interfere with your concentration.
On those occasions when you find yourself in a particularly noisy environment, protecting your ears with ear plugs, although not a tinnitus treatment per se, can be effective as a means to prevent your symptoms from worsening. Bearing in mind the effect of silence, be sure to remove them when the noise subsides
At this stage, it must be apparent that these tips are all based around the idea of coping with the symptoms, rather than attempting to cure them. That said, there is another effective form of distraction that will also benefit your general health. Get some regular exercise. Tai Chi, for example, is a perfect way to relax in order to alleviate your symptoms, as well as a very effective way to keep fit.
As long as you allow yourself to focus too much on your symptoms, the tinnitus will continue to control your life. Distractions are an effective treatment, so simply keeping yourself busy with work, hobbies, and other absorbing activities is always helpful. There are also many online support groups where members can exchange concerns, suggestions, and personal experiences of coping. In addition to these self-help suggestions, professional help is also available. However, it is important to understand that there is currently no cure for this phenomenon and that medical support, in this case, also consists largely of coping and masking mechanisms, including some of a more technological nature.
Counselling offers the tinnitus sufferer an effective primary approach or an adjunct to other forms of treatment, and is useful both for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. It may include cognitive behavioural therapy, which can help to modify a patient’s negative reaction to his or her symptoms. When combined with sound enrichment, counselling provides a form of re-training therapy that serves to reduce the patient’s perception of the phantom sounds and thus minimise the related stress.
The link between hearing loss and these wholly subjective sounds is well-established with studies suggesting that 80% of tinnitus sufferers also have impaired audition. In many of these cases, no further treatment, apart from providing a suitable hearing aid, is required to simultaneously reduce the phantom sounds to a level at which they can be easily ignored or, at least, better tolerated.
These intrusive sounds can also be masked by white noise – the same principle commonly applied in open-plan offices to neutralise background chatter that could be distracting for workers. Assisted hearing specialists, such as Phonak, now offer the option of combining their Tinnitus Balance noise generator with an amplifier for those whose symptoms are accompanied by significant hearing loss. Alternatively, the noise generator is offered as a separate device for use by those who have no need for amplification.
Patients may opt for an individual product or choose various combinations of devices in order to best suit their individual needs and lifestyles.