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Can Tinnitus (Ringing in the Ears) Be Cured?

Nearly 36 million Americans suffer from tinnitus. Many famous people suffer(ed) from tinnitus including Peter Townsend, Bob Dylan, and even Beethoven.

What is tinnitus? Tinnitus is the perception of sound in the ears or head where no external source is present. It is often described as a high-pitched squeal, but it may also sound like roaring, or other types of sounds. The noise can be constant or intermittent. For some, tinnitus is noticeable on occasion, whereas for others, its presence can be a daily source of irritation.

What causes tinnitus? There are many possible causes of tinnitus. These include ear wax, hair or other foreign material touching the ear drum; muscle spasm inside the ear; otosclerosis (excessive bone growth around the hearing bones); Meniere’s disease; tumors; hearing loss; noise trauma; medication; stress and fatigue; food reactions; and smoking.

What should I do if I experience tinnitus? If the tinnitus is a brief, fleeting sound, occurring only on rare occasions, no treatment may be necessary. Those whose tinnitus is frequent or continuous should seek consultation with an otologist (ear doctor) or otolaryngologist (ENT physician). In addition to a thorough medical history and examination, hearing tests, balance tests and radiology studies may be ordered as part of the comprehensive evaluation.

How is tinnitus treated? For the majority of tinnitus patients, there is no “cure.” If a specific cause for the tinnitus is found, there may be treatment to eliminate the noise. Avoidance of certain foods and habits such as salt, artificial sweetners, sugar, alcohol, tobacco and caffeine can be helpful.

Treatment options for tinnitus include dietary modification; medication adjustment; noise avoidance; stress reduction, meditation, and cognitive therapy; hearing aids; tinnitus retraining therapy; neuromonics neural modulating device; and surgery.

The latest in tinnitus treatment. Two of the latest tinnitus treatments include: specially-designed hearing aids and the Neuromonics tinnitus device. Most tinnitus sufferers have hearing loss. Knowing this, a university audiologist developed a specific tinnitus reduction strategy. The treatment, incorporated into a hearing aid, has a harmonic sound program specifically engineered toward tinnitus reduction. This device serves the dual function of both amplifying hearing and providing peace of mind, thereby assisting patients in coping with their tinnitus.

Alternatively, the Neuromonics device uses a customized neural stimulus. The patient wears a simple device (much like an MP3 player) for a couple of hours each day. Some patients do experience an immediate relief from their tinnitus. The treatment lasts for several months, and is designed to interact, interrupt, and de-sensitize tinnitus disturbance for long-term benefit.

Dr. Kato is the founder of The Ear Institute in Palm Desert. Her top priority is improving the quality of life of her patients. Dr. Kato can be reached at: 760-565-3900.

References: (1) American Tinnitus Association website: www.ata.org; (2) American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. www.entnet.org

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