If you are one of millions of Americans who suffer from tinnitus, you know how this condition can impair the quality of your life. Because of those decidedly unpleasant ringing, buzzing, hissing, humming, whistling, thumping and roaring sounds swooshing through your ears, you may have trouble hearing, working and sleeping.
You are not alone.
According to the American Tinnitus Association (ATA), an estimated 50 million people in the United States suffer from this disorder, including two million who are so incapacitated that they cannot function normally. And, to make matters worse, no effective cure exists for this debilitating disorder.
Current commonly practiced treatments include hearing aids, cochlear implants, relaxation techniques, tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT), some medications, as well as alternative treatments such as acupuncture, cranio-sacral therapy, and hypnosis. Some sufferers say one or a combination of these techniques brings a measure of relief, but a truly effective treatment that works equally well for everyone remains elusive.
However, new research suggests that music therapy may be effective in suppressing tinnitus. Before we look at this promising piece of news, here is some more information about this ailment.
Many possible causes of tinnitus
The exact causes of tinnitus have not yet been discovered, and there are many possible culprits, ranging from the damage to the microscopic endings of the inner ear’s hearing nerve to prolonged exposure to loud noises.
Other possible causes include cardiovascular disease, high or low blood pressure, head or neck trauma, various diseases and certain kinds of tumors. In some cases, such easily treated conditions as wax buildup in the ears, allergies, or sinus infections can trigger bouts of tinnitus, as can antibiotics, sedatives, antidepressants, or anti-inflammatory drugs. As a matter of fact, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders says that more than 200 medications could potentially cause tinnitus, so ask your physician or pharmacist if you suspect your medicines could be at the root of your symptoms.
But that’s not all: According to the Washington D.C.-based Society for Neuroscience, studies into brain-imaging techniques have linked tinnitus to irregular activity in various areas of the brain, including those involved in sound processing.
The list of possible culprits is long, which makes the task of finding a cure for tinnitus – or at least good treatment- all the more difficult.
Bring on the music
We know that music therapy is beneficial in a variety of diseases and afflictions. For example, it has been proven to speed up the recovery after strokes, in heart disease, and epilepsy. It has also been known to alleviate pain, manage stress, and improve memory.
Now, German researchers claim that personalized music therapy may be beneficial for people suffering from tinnitus.
This innovative approach is based on recent findings that suggest reorganization of the auditory cortex, the part of the brain responsible for perceiving sound, may possibly cause tinnitus.
Thirty-nine patients who took part in the study carried out at Westphalian Wilhelms University in Munster, suffered from chronic tinnitus for an average of five years but had no other hearing problems.
They were divided into three groups and were offered the modified music therapy (which means it was “notched” — a one-octave frequency band, centered on the frequency of the ringing experienced by the subject, was filtered out), a dummy version of music therapy, or their usual treatment. Those who listened to the modified music for an average of 12 hours a week reported a significant drop in the level of tinnitus-related noises.
Based on these findings, the study concluded that the notched music approach “can be considered as enjoyable, low cost, and presumably causal treatment that is capable of specifically reducing tinnitus loudness.”
Whether or not this method is effective for all tinnitus sufferers remains to be seen, but it may offer a ray of hope to some.
Do what you can
|Thre is hope for tinnitus treatment|
What do you do if –despite the above-mentioned findings - what you hear in your ears is not exactly the sound of music?
As we said, no treatment that has been proven effective for everyone exists at this time. However, do not give up hope as you may be helped by tips outlined on the ATA’s website: tinnitus tips for patients. Among them:
- EXAMINE how you live to find ways to eliminate or reduce some stress in different parts of your life; stress often makes tinnitus worse.
- PAY ATTENTION to what you eat. One-by-one, eliminate possible sources of tinnitus aggravation, e.g., salt, artificial sweeteners, sugar, alcohol, prescription or over-the-counter medications, tobacco and caffeine. (Do not stop taking medications without consulting with your health care professional.)
- DON’T GIVE UP on a treatment if it doesn’t work right away. Some can take quite a while to have a positive effect.
- PROTECT YOURSELF from further auditory damage by avoiding loud places and by using earplugs when you can’t avoid loud noise.
ATA offers further suggestions on how to lessen the effect of tinnitus on your life.
The bottom line is you should not give up hope. If you have been told in the past that there is nothing you can do for your tinnitus and to “live with it”, do not settle with that.
There are many different treatment options out there to try, one which may be right for you. Look for an audiologist or other health care provider who specializes in tinnitus treatment. There are many leading tinnitus-focused clinics around the United States.
Hope lies in the hundreds of tinnitus researchers out there who are fighting to find causes/treatments/cures. To learn more about tinnitus research, visit ATA’s tinnitus research section on their website.