Tinnitus Treatment Options
Tinnitus is the term used to describe the condition of perceiving ringing, buzzing, or another kind of noise (or noises) in the ear or the head. The word tinnitus is Latin and 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.
Common causes and exacerbators of tinnitus include:
- Stress and depression
- Hearing loss
- Exposure to loud noises
- Earwax buildup or blockages
- Abnormal bone growth in the ear
- Meniere's disease
- Head or neck injuries
- Benign tumor of the vestibular nerve
In order to find out the root cause of your tinnitus, your physician and/or audiologist will conduct a medical history, as well as an 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. In many cases, if an individual with tinnitus also has hearing loss (which is common), amplification may treat the hearing loss while also potentially reducing the perception of the tinnitus while the hearing aids are being worn.
A common treatment is acoustic therapy or sound therapy. Sound therapy makes use of external sounds to help the brain re-focus and diminish the emotional impact of the tinnitus. The goal is habituation, or getting used to, your tinnitus, which can be achieved in a number of ways. In conjunction with sound therapy, relaxation exercises, better sleep hygiene, and decreased consumption of alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and sodium can also help with tinnitus relief.
About 75% of people with tinnitus are not bothered by it because their brains process it and file it as another everyday noise. The goal of tinnitus therapy is 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 may 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 and negatively affecting overall quality of life.