The Tinnitus Specialist Blog

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Coping With Tinnitus

Advice on how to cope with tinnitus, including updates from the Coping With Tinnitus group on Google Plus, which you can find here.

A great question from the coping with tinnitus community
This weekend, Carmencita de la cerna asked a great question on the Coping With Tinnitus Google+ Group:
 
"Is there a cure for tinnitus? Or do we just have to bear with it? Audiologists say the noise is not in the ears, it's in your head. So what is really the truth?"
 
Here's my answer:
 
"Hi +carmencita de la cerna - those are some good questions there.
 
Firstly, is there a cure for tinnitus? The answer is strictly no at present, but as our understanding of the condition, and the different areas of the brain that are involved improves, we are getting very close.
 
The are some ongoing medical trials of drugs that can prevent noise-induced tinnitus. These work at the level of the brain-stem - currently the side effects are rather unpleasant, so research continues to try to find a variation of a drug that will have more acceptable side effects.
 
As for people who already have tinnitus, it used to be believed that tinnitus was produced in the ear, so many surgeons would cut the auditory (hearing) nerve. The trouble was that most patients still had tinnitus afterwards, so it couldn't have been coming from the ear.
 
The current theory with tinnitus is that it is a reaction in the auditory cortex in the brain to sensorineural hearing loss in the inner ear or auditory nerve. The neurons in the auditory cortex reorganise themselves to concentrate on frequency areas where stimulation from the cochlea still persists. It is usually in the cross-over area between good and bad hearing where tinnitus occurs, as the neuronal reorganisation is imperfect. However, patients with cochlear implants have found that amplitude modulated sound matched to the tinnitus pitch is very effective in retraining the auditory cortex to produce less and less tinnitus. The same effect can also be enjoyed by tinnitus sufferers who still have good hearing or who wear hearing aids.
 
This independent research on amplitude-modulated, pitch-matched tones conducted at the University of California, Irvine has led to a device called the Soundcure Serenade, which modulates the firing of neurons (neuromodulation) in the auditory cortex to reduce or eliminate tinnitus during treatment. Many patients within a very short time get complete relief from their tinnitus, while others get a significant reduction. Around 30% of patients will get limited or no relief from their tinnitus in the short term.
 
Another device, based on treatment for Parkinson's Syndrome, ANM's Acoustic Neuromodulation Coordinated Reset device claims to do a similar job to the SoundCure Serenade, and they are now paying Notiingham University to try to prove its effectiveness (in other words, the only current evidence is anecdotal). It is around double the price of the Serenade, but may help those who don't get relief from the Serenade. Every weapon in the war against tinnitus is welcome as it could potentially provide relief for a sufferer.

For those patients who don't get relief from traditional white noise maskers or neuromodulation devices, they will just have to "bear with it" as you say, but there's more to it than just telling them to "bear with it", "live with it" or just "get used to it". We can teach relaxation techniques, provide person-centered counselling, teach Mindfulness or give Hypnotherapy. All of these can be helpful for tinnitus sufferers to adjust to their condition. Quite often with some help they can accept their condition and move on with their lives."
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