What tinnitus treatment options are offered at The Hearing Center?
If the examination reveals a local or general cause of tinnitus, correction of the problem may alleviate the symptoms. In most cases, however, there is no medical or surgical treatment which will eliminate tinnitus.
When tinnitus is associated with a hearing impairment, even a mild one, the use of a hearing aid in the involved ear is frequently very effective in reducing the awareness “masking out” the tinnitus. In many newer hearing aid models, special features, most notably a built-in noise generator, have been included to help the tinnitus sufferer. In an individual with hearing impairment, often the most effective treatment of tinnitus is the use of properly fitted hearing aids.
For individuals who have normal hearing but are severely distracted by their tinnitus, a tinnitus masker may be effective. The tinnitus masker is a small electronic instrument built into a behind-the-ear hearing aid case. It generates a noise which mixes with the individual’s tinnitus to help aid in habituation to the sound.
Additional Treatment Options for Tinnitus:
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT)
This technique is based on the idea that the brain is flexible and can adapt to different situations, which is referred to as habituation. TRT consists of two components: direct counseling and education to learn more effective coping techniques, and sound therapy. The premise behind TRT is that with proper counseling, education and understanding, the brain is able to habituate or get used to a sound pattern in order to both reduce the anxiety and allow one to focus one’s attention away from the tinnitus. It is felt that the negative reaction to tinnitus is largely a conditioned response that can be altered with intervention. According to Dr. Pawel Jastreboff, who designed the TRT program, it can be 80% effective. For the sound therapy component, the patient wears a hearing aid-type of device that presents soft sound in the ear, such that the patient is barely able to hear both the tinnitus and the sound that is generated. This is combined with adaptation techniques that are taught during the counseling sessions, allowing the brain to de-emphasize the importance of the tinnitus. The actual counseling techniques are taught on a regular basis by an audiologist or professional who has received specialized training in this area.
Biofeedback training is effective in reducing the intensity of tinnitus in some patients. Treatment consists of biofeedback exercises, in hourly sessions, in which the patient learns to control circulation to various parts of the body and relax muscles attached to the head. When a patient is able to accomplish this type of relaxation, tinnitus can subside.