Tinnitus is often described as a ringing, buzzing, whistling or humming in the ears. Living with tinnitus can be debilitating, leading to insomnia, depression and an overall lower quality of life. It affects over 50 million Americans, including 15 million veterans.
Tinnitus Affects Multiple Areas Of The Brain
Researchers at the University of Iowa recently completed a study on tinnitus, and found that the condition affects multiple areas of the brain, not only the part of the brain that receives sound information. Also affected were the areas of the brain connected to memory, attention, and emotion.
New Guidelines To Treat Tinnitus
Last year, the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS) released new guidelines for the treatment of tinnitus, that include:
- Complete medical history
- Thorough physical and ear examination
- Hearing test
- Hearing aid evaluation for those with hearing loss
- Counselling on ways to manage tinnitus
Medications and Dietary Supplements Are Not Recommended
The AAO-HNS recommends against MRI’s or other imaging techniques to assess a patient’s tinnitus, and against the routine use of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications to manage the effects of tinnitus. Dietary supplements like ginkgo biloba, melatonin and zinc are also not recommended.
New Treatments On The Horizon
So what can someone with tinnitus do to help manage their condition? There are some new treatments being researched that align with the AAO-HNS guidelines, and which may work to ease the burden on those who live with tinnitus.
New Vibration Therapy For Tinnitus
Researchers at SUNY Brooklyn and Virginia Commonwealth University are studying a new vibration technology called UltraQuiet. The UltraQuiet system consists of a music player, amplifier and headpiece. The headpiece contains a small disc that is held up to the mastoid bone. That disc turns music into high frequency vibrations. These vibrations are processed by the mastoid bone. They bypass the middle ear, and go straight to the cochlea, and then are sent to the brain to be processed.
Tinnitus Patients See Improvement
In the SUNY/Virginia Commonwealth study, participants were between the ages of 35 and 72, had severe disabling tinnitus and mild to moderate high frequency hearing loss. After four weeks of treatment, participants reported a significant improvement in their tinnitus – improvement that lasted for several weeks as opposed to a couple of minutes as with more traditional masking therapies.
Help Is Available
While there is no cure for tinnitus, there are treatments available that can help mask the tinnitus and alleviate associated symptoms like stress and anxiety. If you or a loved one is living with tinnitus, schedule an appointment to learn about the best treatment option for you.