It is important to remember that tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease. The initial treatment should be directed toward looking for a medically treatable cause of the tinnitus, as the tinnitus may be a symptom of a more serious disorder. Anyone with tinnitus should have a complete audiological evaluation by a qualified audiologist. A referral to an otolaryngologist may be recommended if a medical evaluation is warranted. Patients with tinnitus are often told that there is no medical cure or treatment for their condition. This is not entirely true. Although there may be no cure for the tinnitus, it can often be successfully managed. There are various treatments available which may give varying degrees of relief:
- Counseling – aimed at reducing the stress and distraction associated with the tinnitus. It is important to change the person’s perception of the tinnitus.
- Consideration of Diet – often high levels of salt and caffeine, as well as nicotine, can cause an increase in tinnitus.
- Stress Management and Relaxation – there is a high correlation between stress and an increase in the loudness of one’s tinnitus. Many strategies aimed at reducing stress can be very effective at controlling tinnitus.
- Support Groups for Tinnitus – can offer emotional support by sharing experiences and useful strategies for dealing with tinnitus.
- Auditory Habituation (TRT) – this is a type of therapy whereby a noise is presented via a “noise generator” into the effected ear(s) at a soft enough level such that the brain perceives both the noise and the tinnitus. Eventually, over a period of 18-24 months, the brain may relearn a pattern that will de-emphasize the importance of the tinnitus. Amplification – if a hearing loss is present along with the tinnitus hearing aids can be very effective in relieving tinnitus.
- Masking – the use of an external electronic device to produce sound which can cover up or mask the tinnitus can sometimes be very effective in providing relief from tinnitus. Occasionally the tinnitus can be inhibited for short and sometimes long periods of time when the masking sound is removed (residual inhibition).There are different types of maskers:
- Tinnitus masker – is an electronic device somewhat like a hearing aid which produces noise to help mask the tinnitus.
- Tinnitus instrument – a combined hearing aid and masker for people who have both a hearing loss and tinnitus.
- Commercial noise generators – various types of electronic devices which produce different forms of masking sounds to provide relief from tinnitus. These are especially useful at night time when trying to get to sleep. There are many systems on the market today that are made specifically for tinnitus sufferers.
- Medications – there is no single medication that works on all tinnitus patients. Certain anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications have proven successful for a small percentage of tinnitus patients. Some patients have seen success using herbal medications such as ginkgo biloba.
Alternate approaches – some tinnitus patients have reported benefit from treatments such as hypnosis, acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, ear candling, and naturopathy. Education is important. Suffers of tinnitus are encouraged to speak about their condition to their audiologist. There are also many websites with invaluable information, some of which are: