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Tinnitus Treatment Can Help With Hyperacusis

Intervention for Restricted Dynamic Range and Reduced Sound Tolerance: Clinical Trial Using Modified Tinnitus Retraining Therapy

February 19-23, 2011, Baltimore: National Institutes of Health (NIH)-supported scientists will be presenting their latest research findings at the 2011 Midwinter Meeting of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology (ARO). 

tinnitus hypercusis treatmentAlmost all of us cringe at the thought of fingernails on a chalkboard, but people with hyperacusis experience discomfort when listening to normal sounds too. For them, some sounds seem too loud, even though they are at tolerable levels for everyone else. Some people may even go without their hearing aids to avoid the pain or discomfort that amplified sound can bring.

NIDCD-funded researchers at the University of Alabama, University of Maryland, and others tested how a sound therapy for tinnitus (ringing in the ears) can help people with hyperacusis to tolerate louder sounds. In earlier studies, they’d found that people with tinnitus who received sound therapy—wearing a noise-generating device in each ear that plays a soft whooshing noise, like the inside of a seashell, plus counseling—were able to tolerate louder sound levels than they did before the treatment. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, the researchers tested various combinations of sound therapy with hearing-impaired individuals who had low sound tolerance, but who didn’t have ringing in the ears as their primary problem. Some received counseling and the noise generators, some received counseling with placebo noise generators, some received noise generators with no counseling, and some received placebo noise generators with no counseling.

They found that individuals were much more likely to increase their tolerance for louder sound levels when using the full treatment—noise generators plus counseling. The researchers’ next step is to evaluate a noise-generating device in combination with a hearing aid to see if they can enhance performance for hearing aid wearers by improving their tolerance to amplified sounds.

Source: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)

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