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    Tinnitus

    Understanding Tinnitus -- Diagnosis and Treatment

    (continued)

    What Are the Treatments for Tinnitus? continued...

    Lidocaine, a medication used for the treatment of certain types of abnormal heart rhythms, has been shown to relieve tinnitus for some people, but it must be given intravenously or into the middle ear to be effective. However, the benefits of lidocaine are almost always outweighed by the risks of the drug and it is therefore not usually recommended for tinnitus.

    Hearing Aids

    If your tinnitus is accompanied by some hearing loss, a hearing aid may be helpful.

    Masking Devices

    Many people have also benefited from tinnitus maskers, devices resembling hearing aids that play a sound more pleasant than the internal noise produced by the tinnitus. A newer device is a tinnitus instrument, which is a combination of hearing aid and masker.

    Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT)

    TRT depends upon the natural ability of the brain to "habituate" a signal, to filter it out on a subconscious level so that it does not reach conscious perception. Habituation requires no conscious effort. People frequently habituate many auditory sounds -- air conditioners, computer fans, refrigerators, and gentle rain, among them. What they have in common is that they have no importance, so they are not perceived as ''loud.'' Thus, the brain can screen them out.

    TRT has two parts:

    1. The person with tinnitus will play some source of neutral sound everywhere he or she goes, including wearing in-the-ear sound generators.
    2. The person with tinnitus receives one-on-one counseling.

    This form of tinnitus treatment takes 12 to 24 months and is highly successful in experienced hands.

    Cognitive Therapy

    This is a form of counseling that helps a person to modify his or her reaction to the tinnitus. It works best when combined with other forms of therapy, such as masking or medication.

    Biofeedback

    This is a relaxation technique that helps people to manage stress by changing their reaction to it. Some people find it is helpful in reducing tinnitus.

    Dental Treatment

    Some professionals believe tinnitus can be caused by a problem with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), the area where the jaw bone attaches to the head, just in front of the ear. They suggest that dental treatment may relieve symptoms of tinnitus, because the muscles and nerves in the jaw are closely connected to those in the ear.

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