Have you ever wondered about the different types of tinnitus treatments available? Or, maybe you’re curious to learn more about what the different noises you hear mean. Find out more in this week’s latest Audicus blog!
What is Tinnitus
Tinnitus is a hearing condition characterized by a ringing or buzzing sensation in the ears. It is often times the result of being exposed to loud noises for an extended period of time, and while 50 million Americans experience tinnitus it is more common in the elderly.
Tinnitus episodes can occur multiple times throughout the day and can take place in complete silence. Although there is no known cure for tinnitus, there are a number of tinnitus treatments to help alleviate it.
Hearing aids greatly assist with tinnitus because they allow the user to perceive sounds that mask the characteristic ringing noise tinnitus produces.
This masking effect can be even more effective as a tinnitus treatment if the tinnitus occurs within the same frequency interval as the hearing loss.
Often times tinnitus is a symptom of hearing loss and ear damage, and by restoring their hearing and using hearing aids as a tinnitus treatment, users can lower the intensity or frequency of tinnitus that they experience daily.
Hearing aids can be especially useful for intense cases of tinnitus where the ringing or buzzing sensation interferes with the ability to have in-person conversations and speak on the phone.
Tinnitus and Cognitive Training
In addition to hearing aids, cognitive training is another potential treatment for tinnitus. Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine have developed a training program called “Brain Fitness Program – Tinnitus” to help alleviate the effects of tinnitus.
The program contains 11 training exercises that include visual and acoustic stimuli. Participants with tinnitus who participated in the program displayed increased memory, attention span, and perception of tinnitus, compared to patients that did not complete the exercise.
By training the brain to respond to stimuli in different or improved ways, it is possible to lessen the effects of tinnitus.
This method is effective because of the nature of tinnitus. The brain undergoes neurological changes following hearing loss in order to more effectively process sounds, and tinnitus is often times the result of these neurological changes.
Future Treatments for Tinnitus
New research has allowed for better detection of tinnitus in laboratory animals. Scientists from Wayne State University have developed a training and screening program to pinpoint tinnitus in laboratory rats by their behavior.
In the training program, the rats were conditioned to lick a spout whenever they heard a noise. The rats were also conditioned to suppress licking the spout when there was silence.
Because tinnitus manifests as a sound even when external environments are noise-free, the scientists were able to determine that the rats who licked their spout in silent conditions were experiencing tinnitus.
This new method of tinnitus identification makes it easier for scientists to select laboratory animals for tinnitus experiments and has the potential to allow for distinguishing the different types and frequencies of tinnitus in laboratory animals.