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Ringing in the Ears (Tinnitus): Treatment

When there is no identifible cause, can something be done to lessen the tinnitus?

Yes, the following list of do's and don'ts can help lessen the severity of tinnitus. First of all, remember that the auditory (hearing) system is one of the most delicate and sensitive mechanisms of the human body. Since it is a part of the general nervous system, its responses are affected to some degree by anxiety state of the person involved. Therefore, it is advisable to make every effort to:

  1. Avoid exposure to loud sounds and noises.
  2. Get your blood pressure checked; if it is high, seek your doctor's help to get it under control.
  3. Decrease your intake of salt (which impairs good blood circulation).
  4. Avoid salty foods and do not add salt to your food in cooking or at the table.
  5. Avoid nerve stimulants such as coffee and colas (caffeine), tobacco (nicotine) and marijuana.
  6. Exercise daily. It improves your circulation.
  7. Get adequate rest and avoid overfatigue.
  8. Stop worrying about the noise. Tinnitus will not cause you to go deaf or result in losing your mind or your life. Recognize your head noises as an annoying but minor reality, and then learn to ignore them as much as possible. This type of control can sometimes be greatly enhanced via the techniques of biofeedback and/or masking.
  9. Reduce nervous anxiety, which may further stress an already tense hearing system.

What is biofeedback? Does it really work?

Biofeedback involves concentration and relaxation exercises designed to teach voluntary control of the circulation to various parts of the body and how to relax muscle groups throughout the body. When this type of control is accomplished, it may be effective in reducing the intensity of tinnitus in some patients.

What about masking? What is a tinnitus masker?

Tinnitus is usually more bothersome when the surroundings are quiet, especially when you are in bed. A competing sound such as a ticking clock or a radio may help mask head noises, making them less noticeable. Some physician suggest listening to FM music at low volume. Many patients have been helped by dialing between two FM stations for the purpose of picking up subdued static, again at low volume. Such static may be extremely soothing, with a soft, rushing kind of sound known as white noise. Other patients prefer small electrical devices (e.g. Sleep Mate) which produce soothing backgound noise. These are sold through certain department stores and catalogs.

The tinnitus masker is a small electronic instrument built into or combined with a hearing aid. It generates a competitive but pleasant sound which for some individuals masks the tinnitus by reducing awareness of head noise. The result is similar to successful use of white noise-by helping a patient overcome his awareness of tinnitus before going to sleep at night.

Will hearing aids help reduce the noise?

People with impaired hearing sometimes find that their hearing aids reduce head noise and occasionally cause it to go away. Even a person with a minor hearing deficit may find that hearing aids relieve his tinnitus. However, a thorough trial before purchase is advisabl if the primary purpose is the relief of tinnitus. Often, when the hearing aid is removed, the head noise returns to its former level.

Conclusion

Prior to any treatment of tinnitus or head noise, it is important that you have a through examination including an evaluation by your otolaryngologist. Once your doctor has completed this evaluation, an essential part of the treatment will be to help you to understand your tinnitus, what has caused it, and how best it may be treated.

 ©1993. American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, Inc., Alexandria, VA.

 

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