TREATMENT OF TINNITUS
There are various different treatment options available for tinnitus with varying degrees of statistical reliability and satisfaction. The most effective way to treat tinnitus is to eliminate the underlying cause. If the tinnitus is symptom of a treatable medical condition, then treating the condition will eliminate tinnitus. However unfortunately, in many case the cause of tinnitus can not be identified and hence it becomes difficult to treat medically or surgically. These cases can then be pursued by an audiologist for treatment of tinnitus through different therapeutic techniques. Generally audiologist decides on his or her treatment preferences.
Cochlear Implant/Electrical Stimulation
The electrode array inserted into the cochlea sends an electrical signal to the auditory cortex and it is theorised that these frequency signal of the electrical stimulation mask the tinnitus. The masking effect of tinnitus may last even in the absence of stimulation. There are studies which show that half of tinnitus sufferer relieved from tinnitus after the cochlear implant. However these implants are advised only to certain group of patients as electrode implantation destroys whatever healthy hair cells were left inside cochlea.
There are some other forms of electrical stimulation to the ear as well however I have not come across any study which shows extraordinary improvement from tinnitus.
There are various drugs or medications used to relieve tinnitus, but there is none that has been designed specifically to treat tinnitus. The drugs that have been studied to relieve tinnitus are antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, anticonvulsants etc. However the studies show that the drug therapy reduces associated symptom of tinnitus such as, annoyance, frustration and depression rather than tinnitus itself.
Tinnitus is greatly correlated with stress and depression. It has been reported that the tinnitus is worse in patients who experience great amount of stress and depression. If the stress and depression can be minimised then tinnitus can be relieved. Biofeedback is a relaxation technique that is designed to teach patient to control certain autonomic body functions, such as pulse, muscle tension, and skin temperature. The goal of this technique is to help patient control his/her stress level by changing the body’s reaction to it and ultimately, the tinnitus.
Each patient reacts differently to their tinnitus. It’s often seen that the patient with severe tinnitus describes as having additional emotional problem such as depression or anxiety. Cognitive therapy is a psychotherapeutic approach that aims to treat emotional reaction to tinnitus by changing patients thought process. By managing patient’s emotional reaction to the tinnitus, they are helped to learn coping strategies that often help patient to deal with his/her tinnitus. The aim of cognitive therapy is not to treat tinnitus but to help patient cope better with tinnitus.
Some tinnitus patients with hearing aid experience reduction in their tinnitus. The exact reason for this is not known and there are many variables that determine success. One possibility may be is that amplified environmental sound mask tinnitus. Another possibility is that the hearing aid makes communication easier, thus reduces stress which in result may ease tinnitus.
Sound therapy includes wearing hearing aid like devices and also non-wearable devices like table top sound machines. These electronic devices produce an external sound which is designed to override patient’s tinnitus.
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT)
TRT is designed based on neurophysiological model of tinnitus. It uses combination of directive counseling and sound therapy in strict framework.
Summary of Tinnitus Treatments
In summary, there are various different treatment options are available for tinnitus. However it is important to note that these options do not work for everyone neither does work at same degree for each individual patient. This is the reason it becomes highly important to discuss individual tinnitus situation with a qualified health professional.