Medications and Other Treatment Therapy for Tinnitus
Treatment for tinnitus depends on the underlying cause of the problem. In the majority of cases, it's caused by damage to the hearing organ. In these cases, there is normally no need for treatment other than reassurance that the sounds are not being caused by another treatable illness.
In the very rare instance where tinnitus is extremely bothersome, there are a number of treatment options.
- Some of the most helpful include anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication and sometimes maskers-small devices like hearing aids that help to block out the sound of the tinnitus with "white noise."
- "Sound therapy" uses external noises to help change a patient's perception of, or reaction to, tinnitus. These external sounds may mask the tinnitus, or help distract from it.
- For people who are bothered by tinnitus only when trying to sleep, the sound of a fan, radio, or white noise machine is usually all that is required to relieve the problem.
- Wearable sound generators that fit into the ear use a soft sound such as random tones, music, or a "shhhhhh" sound, to help mask the tinnitus.
- Most people with tinnitus find that their symptoms are worse when under stress, so relaxation techniques can be helpful.
- Avoid caffeine because it may worsen symptoms.
- Biofeedback may help or diminish tinnitus in some patients.
- Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) trains you to accept the sounds from tinnitus as normal, helping you to be less aware of it. Masking devices resemble hearing aids and produce low-level sounds that can help reduce awareness of the sounds.
- Similar to TRT, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may help retrain you to feel less distressed with the noise.
- Psychological counseling may help people learn to cope by giving them tools to change the way they think about and react to their symptoms.
- Avoid aspirin or aspirin products in large quantities.
- Hearing loss worsens the effect of the issue, so wear hearing protection and avoid loud noises are very important in preventing the sounds and symptoms from worsening.
- Hearing aids may help people when hearing loss accompanies their tinnitus. Hearing aids can be adjusted and make it easier to hear, making it less likely to notice it.
- If severe hearing loss accompanies tinnitus, cochlear implants may be used. Like a hearing aid, these devices can help patients hear outside noises better, which can help mask the sounds.
- For people whose tinnitus is very loud or persistent, a new technique called acoustic neural stimulation helps change the neural circuits in the brain helping desensitize you to the sounds and other signs.
- If it's caused by TMJ bite realignment or other dental treatments may help relieve symptoms.
- Osteopathy, physical therapy, or chiropractic may help ease symptoms.
- In extreme cases, surgeries such as neurectomy (removal of the cochlear nerve) or microvascular decompression (decompressing the cochlear nerve) may be performed to relieve symptoms.
- In cases where the tinnitus is caused by one of the other rare problems (such as a tumor or aneurysm), treatment involves fixing the main issue. Although this does not always resolve the issue, some people note relief of their symptoms. Only a very few cases of tinnitus are caused by identifiable, repairable medical conditions.
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation, antidepressants, and anticonvulsants treatments are not recommended by the American Academy of Otolaryngology.
Can This Problem Be Prevented?
The only real prevention for tinnitus is to avoid damaging your hearing. Most causes other than hearing loss do not have prevention strategies.
According to the American Tinnitus Association, there are several things you can do to protect yourself from excessive noise-related tinnitus:
- Protect your hearing at work. Your work place should follow Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. Wear ear plugs or earmuffs and follow hearing conservation guidelines set by your employer.
- When around any noise that bothers your ears (a concert, sporting event, hunting) wear hearing protection or reduce noise levels.
- Even everyday noises such as blow drying your hair or using a lawnmower can require protection. Keep ear plugs or earmuffs handy for these activities.
Is There a Cure for Tinnitus?
Currently there is no cure for most cases of tinnitus. Depending on the type of tinnitus, symptoms will tend to come and go over time. Stress level, diet, and exposure to noise can worsen tinnitus. Many people find their tinnitus annoying but can learn to adapt without difficulty. It is likely that if you have had tinnitus, you will have it again in the future.
Arda, H.N. et al. The role of zinc in the treatment of tinnitus. Otol Neurotol. 2003 Jan;24(1):86-9.
Azevedo, A.A. et al. Tinnitus treatment with acamprosate: double-blind study. Braz J Otorhinolaryngol. 2005 Sep-Oct;71(5):618-23. Epub 2006 Mar 31.
Megwalu, U.C. et al. The effects of melatonin on tinnitus and sleep. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2006 Feb;134(2):210-3.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/30/2017
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