First, let's debunk one myth that tinnitus cannot be helped. This is simply not true. Every week patients are seen whose tinnitus is reduced, significantly, or less frequently, to a small degree from tinnitus treatment. While tinnitus cannot be cured, treatment is available.
Due to the personal and unique nature of each tinnitus condition, proper evaluation and specialized treatment are necessary. Although there isn't a single cure for tinnitus, Champlain Valley Audiology audiologists are experienced at providing individual solutions on a case-by-case basis. After completing a hearing test, your professional may refer you to an otolaryngologist, commonly referred to as an ear, nose, and throat doctor, for further examination. Depending on the severity or perceived cause of your tinnitus, this further examination may include an MRI or CT scans.
Below you will find many treatment and therapy options. Your audiologist will work with you to determine the course of your treatment. A more advanced form of therapy, Desyncra, is also available at Champlain Valley Audiology. Please talk to your doctor about whether this is the right option for you.
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy
Dr. Macner has extensive training in the neurophysiologic model of tinnitus, and sound sensitivity such as Hyperacusis and misophonia. Treatment for tinnitus and/or sound sensitivity is conducted using Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) which is based upon the neurophysiologic model of Tinnitus. First published in 1990 by Pawel Jastreboff, Ph.D., TRT is a highly effective treatment method for both tinnitus and sound sensitivity issues. When followed carefully, TRT works to habituate the body's reaction caused by the presence of the unwanted sound by retraining the neural connects between the auditory, limbic and autonomic nervous systems. This form of therapy consists of a wearable device that delivers individually programmed tonal music to mask the specific frequencies of the tinnitus you experience. Over time, this technique may accustom you to the tinnitus, thereby helping you not to focus on it. Counseling is also often a component of tinnitus retraining. TRT consists of two components: intensive one-on-one retraining (teaching), and sound therapy.
Sound therapy, or acoustic therapy, works by making the perception of tinnitus less noticeable in relation to background sound that is delivered through a sound therapy device. The devices can be wearable or be placed on a tabletop. Champlain Valley Audiology considers many of these techniques to help patients live a more fulfilling life with tinnitus. There are many different sounds are available, as outlined below.
- Noise: Broadband noise is most widely used, most likely because it is easy to ignore. Sounding like radio static, it includes a wide range of frequencies (frequency refers to the number of vibrations per second; its perceptual equivalent is pitch). This is believed to activate a large area of auditory cortex in the brain, possibly making this type of sound more effective.
- Music: Studies have found music to be effective for encouraging relaxation and reducing anxiety. Music can also help distract you from your tinnitus. Most clinicians use mild, moderate-tempo, instrumental music rather than fast-tempo music or music with vocalists, which can feel more stimulating than calming.
- Modulated tones: Amplitude and frequency can be varied, resulting in softly pulsing tones. Some patients find this a more effective, acceptable, and relaxing sound.
- Notched sounds: "Notched" sounds refer to sound with a portion of the spectrum removed, or filtered out. Some approaches remove some frequencies from the frequency of the patient's particular tinnitus pitch. Other strategies remove frequencies around the patient's pitch match frequency.
- White noise machines: These devices, which produce simulated environmental sounds such as falling rain or ocean waves, are often an effective treatment for tinnitus. You may want to try a white noise machine with pillow speakers to help you sleep. Fans, humidifiers, dehumidifiers and air conditioners in the bedroom also may help cover the internal noise at night.
- Hearing aids: If you have an underlying hearing loss condition, as well as tinnitus, hearing aids can often time be helpful to allow for better hearing and communication.
- Masking devices: Similar to hearing aids, masking devices are worn in the ear. They produce a continuous, low-level white noise that suppresses tinnitus symptoms.
Lifestyle & Home Remedies
Sometimes, tinnitus cannot be treated with the methods previously mentioned. However, that does not mean that patients can't make their tinnitus symptoms less severe or bothersome to their overall quality of life. There are some lifestyle changes and at-home remedies that we recommend trying if advance therapies don't seem to be enough for your individual condition.
- Stress management: Stress can have an effect on our health in more ways than one, and tinnitus is not immune to this. Try to reduce the stress in your daily life by getting exercise, meditating, or taking time to do the things you love.
- Cover up with other noises: In a quiet room, try using a small fan, low-volume music, or radio static to drown out the sound that your tinnitus condition produces in your ears.
- Reducing alcohol consumption: When you consume alcohol, your blood vessels dilate due to an increased force of your blood flow throughout your body. This can affect your inner ear, which can irritate the existing tinnitus condition. If your symptoms are especially bad, reducing the amount of alcohol you consume can help prevent this irritation.
- Avoid other irritants: Nicotine and loud noises are often seen as major contributors to tinnitus conditions. Consider quitting smoking, chewing tobacco, etc. and use sound reducing earplugs when attending loud settings such as concerts.