The Tinnitus Specialist Blog
Thoughts and inspiration from a Harley Street tinnitus specialist.
A Tinnitus Cure: Is it now a reality?
Tinnitus relief for the majority of people
While we can't promise a tinnitus cure to everyone, it is looking like for the majority of people we can provide significant tinnitus suppression in the short term. Over the long term, we are finding that people need to use the treatment less and less frequency as it seems to retrain their brain to produce less tinnitus with regular use.
SoundCure - A sound cure for tinnitus?
I have had some time now to get to know the SoundCure Serenade and what it can do. After being accredited as an expert provider, I had high hopes with my first two clients. I performed the hearing test that is part of the fitting protocol, then went on to do tinnitus pitch matching, tinnitus loudness matching, then threshold, loudness tolerance and loudness growth at the tinnitus pitch. What is interesting is that with both clients, their tinnitus loudness wasn't greatly above their hearing threshold, and this is a pattern that we see over and over again, even with people who have really severe tinnitus.
Unfortunately, these first two didn't respond well to the treatment tone in the short time they tried the Serenade tinnitus treatment, but we know from the current research that statistically 30% of people will experience less than 30% tinnitus suppression in the short term. Undeterred, I trusted in the scientists at the University of California, and the excellent research they have been carrying out into curing tinnitus. The research shows that 35% of patients will get greater than 70% tinnitus suppression, and a further 35% will get between 30% and 50% suppression, so the likelihood is that most people will get a significant amount of relief from their tinnitus with the SoundCure Serenade. Since then, I have had good results with every patient who has come to see me in London looking for a cure for tinnitus.
A memorable client
One memorable client was a lady from Cyprus, who had been exposed to loud noise on one single occasion at a nightclub. She had woken up with tinnitus the next day and it didn't go away. She sought the opinion of two ENT specialists, and they prescribed different medications. The evidence we have so far is that there isn't any medication which can cure tinnitus once it has started, though there is some promising research into drugs which can prevent tinnitus from noise exposure. This lady came to see me after suffering tinnitus for five months - the majority of people who experience tinnitus find that it goes away by itself, or reduces to a manageable level, within a few months. This lady was still finding her tinnitus distressing, but perhaps even worse was the thought that it might never go away, and she wouldn't be able to participate in activities that she used to find enjoyable.
Tinnitus completely gone
The good news is that her tinnitus when measured objectively wasn't a great deal above her hearing threshold at that pitch, and with the treatment tone set at the standard level (between her hearing threshold and her tinnitus loudness match) she couldn't hear her tinnitus at all. I had to turn the treatment tone to the lowest level for her to hear both, and even then her tinnitus was much lower than usual.
With so many possible causes, you can't really expect one treatment to be a cure for every type of tinnitus. For example, pulsatile tinnitus, patulous Eustachian tube, palatal myoclonus, and middle-ear myoclonus can be psychologically distressing and are best treated by an ENT Consultant, as they can often be controlled with medication or cured by surgery. Where surgery is not possible, or where the cause cannot be found, then Mindfulness, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or Hypnotherapy can be very effective in helping a patient feel less anxious and distressed, come to accept their condition, and find positive ways forward.
One success leads to another
Serenade isn't the only treatment for tinnitus that we can provide. I have had great success with Unitron Moxi Kiss Pro, Siemens Micon 7mi and the Phonak Audeo Q90, all of which combine a hearing aid with a switchable noise generator. Hearing aid prescription is the first line of treatment for people with tinnitus and a hearing loss, and the noise generator can provide soothing relief when needed.
What I like about the SoundCure Serenade is that itdoesn't just mask the tinnitus by making a sound that is louder thus drowning out the tinnitus. Nor does it take 18-24 months to be effective like Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, Sound Therapy and other related treatments that apply white noise at the "mixing point", the same level as the tinnitus, so that both sounds can be heard. Rather, it acts in the auditory cortex to suppress the tinnitus from being produced in the first place. The treatment tone is set just above the hearing threshold and below the tinnitus loudness match, so unlike with masking, there is very little change of self-inflicted hearing damage. We recommend that patients use the treatment as often and for as long as they need to get relief from their tinnitus. If someone wants to follow a protocol, then typically an hour three times a day, in the morning, sometime after lunch, and then before bed is enough at to start with. After eight weeks, the patient may reduce that to an hour two times a day, and after six months it can reduce to once a day. After a year, some people reduce to an hour once a day, but some people by this stage have reduced their treatment to an hour, once a week. The rest of the time, their tinnitus has decreased to a level where they are no longer aware of it. After around 18 months, many patients may only need to use the treatment for an hour once a month, and on the odd occasion when they are feeling particularly tired after a stressful day at work.
Exciting times for tinnitus treatment
Although the above example isn't strictly a cure, as the treatment may still need to be used occasionally, for someone who has distressing tinnitus, the SoundCure Serenade can provide much welcomed relief and give them a sense of control over their life again.
These are really exciting times, and I am glad to be involved in tinnitus treatment with such a great choice of effective devices.