Combination Therapy for Tinnitus

There's no cure for tinnitus -- a ringing, buzzing, whooshing, or hissing in your ears that's not coming from somewhere around you. But there are treatments that can help quiet the "phantom" sound.

For some people, tinnitus is only a small distraction, but for others, it's much more severe. Sometimes the noise from tinnitus may be so loud that it affects your ability to hear real sounds, and you want some way to deal with it.

Researchers have found that tinnitus treatments tend to be more successful when you combine them -- especially behavioral and sound therapies.

Treating Tinnitus

People try everything from hypnosis and acupuncture to using antidepressant medication, but not all of these methods have been studied, nor are they equally effective.

One area that has shown promise: cognitive behavior (or "talk") therapy. It works by helping you change your emotional reaction to the frustrating noise.

Sound therapy is another common treatment for tinnitus. It's a broad term for using outside noise to help offset tinnitus sounds and make them seem less noticeable. But using external sounds alone to treat tinnitus rarely improves the condition.

If you have ongoing and bothersome tinnitus, you may want to try combining these approaches. Researchers looked at several studies of tinnitus treatment and noticed people had good results when they used cognitive behavioral therapy along with sound therapy. In one study of 492 people, those who used both said the tinnitus was quieter and less severe. And the effects of the combined therapy lasted long-term.

Tinnitus retraining therapy uses traditional cognitive behavior therapy along with sound masking (drowning out tinnitus sounds with other noise). It works to teach the subconscious parts of your brain to ignore the sound of tinnitus so you're no longer distracted or annoyed by it. Researchers found it was more effective than other forms of behavioral therapy and sound therapy used together.

It Takes Work

Tinnitus is unique to each person, so getting the right treatment may mean trying different options and combinations to find what's right for you.

When you combine therapies for tinnitus, you'll be going to more than one health care provider. You'll need to see a behavioral or mental health specialist along with a hearing professional.

Successful combined treatment also takes commitment. Many forms of therapy -- including behavioral therapy and tinnitus retraining therapy -- may take several sessions over a few months, depending on your specific circumstances and the types of treatment.

Because tinnitus may be related to hearing loss, an underlying medical cause, or even medication, treating those conditions or changing medicines may help, too. What's most important is that you work with your doctor to find the strategies, tools, and techniques that bring you relief.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Shelley A. Borgia, CCCA on August 01, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

American Tinnitus Association: "Understanding the Facts," "Behavioral Therapies," "Sound Therapies," "Treatment Options."

Mayo Clinic: "Tinnitus: Symptoms and causes."

GMS Current Topics in Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery: "Evidence and evidence gaps in tinnitus therapy."

American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation, Clinical Practice Guidelines: "Patient Education Discussion Points for Bothersome Tinnitus."

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