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Understanding Tinnitus -- Diagnosis and Treatment

What Are the Treatments for Tinnitus? continued...

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.

Cochlear Implants

These devices, implanted in the ear, are mostly used to treat severe deafness. They seem to also help some people with tinnitus-related hearing loss that is significant. The device works by sending electrical signals from the ear to the brain. However, this surgery is not performed for tinnitus alone and is used only for hearing problems.

Alternative Treatments

Although no vitamin supplements or other alternative therapies have been proven beneficial to treat tinnitus, some people try herbal preparations such as ginkgo biloba or minerals such as zinc or magnesium with varying results. Others have experienced relief with acupuncture, magnets, or hypnosis.

Talk to your doctor for before trying any of these treatments.

How Can I Prevent Tinnitus?

Your risk of developing tinnitus increases with exposure to loud noises, so hearing protection is an important intervention. If you are around a noise that is so loud you cannot speak at a normal conversation level, you should wear ear plugs, move away from the noise source, or turn it down.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on March 27, 2014

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