What is the treatment for tinnitus?
Learning the cause of tinnitus is often the most important step to determining treatment options. In many cases there are no medical or surgical treatments for tinnitus; however, there are management strategies that can provide some relief.
Treatment options for tinnitus include the following:
- Hearing aids. Many people who have tinnitus also have hearing loss. Hearing aids may help provide relief from tinnitus by making it less noticeable. This is done by increasing the background noise level. Another benefit of hearing aids is that they improve communication by increasing incoming speech sounds.
- Sound generators. These adjustable ear-level devices produce a broadband sound (pleasant shower-like sound) that is delivered directly to the ear. These devices help people pay less attention to their tinnitus by masking it with other sounds. Sound generators are also used for tinnitus retraining therapy. (This therapy combines individualized counseling with use of sound generators.).
- Combination instruments. A hearing aid and sound generator can be housed in a single unit. These units are best for people who need hearing aids and may benefit from the use of sound generators.
- Environmental enrichment devices. A variety of simple-to-use devices can be used to increase the level of background sound in order to decrease the perception of tinnitus. These include tabletop sound machines that can generate different types of sounds (for example, rain, wind, waterfalls), CD/mp3 recordings of music and/or nature/environmental sounds and apps specifically created for tinnitus relief that can be used with smartphones or tablets.
- Neuromonics. A pleasant acoustic signal (embedded in music) is delivered to the ear through high fidelity earphones and a small credit-card size processor. This form of music therapy is a very pleasant alternative to other types of sound therapy and requires at least 6 months of active treatment time. The music also tends to further improve relaxation, which helps people cope with their tinnitus.
- Relaxation techniques. Many people who have tinnitus find that it worsens when they are under stress. Learning techniques to increase relaxation and ease stress can help people better deal with the frustrations of tinnitus.
- Other options. Cognitive behavioral or acceptance therapy with a psychologist can help people learn ways to limit the attention given to tinnitus and also help them better manage the stress and anxiety resulting from the tinnitus. Management of a temporomandibular disorder (TMD) (the area where the lower jaw and skull meet) by a dentist may be of value in helping to control dental issues, such teeth clenching and grinding, which are associated with tinnitus. An examination by a physical therapist may identify problems with the movement of the head, neck and jaw that can contribute to tinnitus. Follow-up physical therapy can help restore the proper movement of the neck and jaw and improve posture, which may reduce the severity of tinnitus.