Tinnitus is a medical condition characterized by a sensation of ringing in the ears in the absence of any external ringing sound. It has various possible causes, including muscle spasms in the ear, hearing loss, injury of the ear or head, drug abuse, and metabolic and psychiatric disorders. Tinnitus treatment also takes a variety of forms, depending in part on the cause of the condition.
Tinnitus treatment for objective tinnitus, in which sounds can be perceived emanating from the patient's ear, may be treated surgically or pharmacologically. If it is caused by excess earwax, clearing the ear canal may be all the tinnitus treatment necessary. Propranolol and clonazepam are effective if arterial anatomical variation is the cause, and botulinum toxin can cure tinnitus caused by a palatal tremor. If a tumor in the jugular vein is causing abnormal blood flow near the inner ear, it can be excised with gamma knife radiosurgery. Another surgical tinnitus treatment is a Teflon® implant inserted in the ear to shield the cochlea from the sound.
Subjective tinnitus, in which the ringing sound is experienced only by the patient, is more common than objective tinnitus and has an even wider range of treatments. Lidocaine injections in the inner ear may briefly relieve symptoms. Dietary changes may be indicated, such as a reduction of salt, caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol. In some patients, alcohol consumption relieves symptoms.
Dietary supplements including zinc, melatonin, ginkgo biloba, and certain multivitamins are helpful for some tinnitus patients. Medications can also be effective against subjective tinnitus. Small doses of anticonvulsants, benzodiazepine sedatives, or tricyclic antidepressants are sometimes prescribed.
Another tinnitus treatment is electrical stimulation, which can be applied to the nerves, to the head, or directly to the auditory cortex through implanted electrodes. Additional options include sound and light therapy. External sounds, such as white noise, music, or low-pitched sounds, can help mask tinnitus. Some tinnitus patients benefit from the reduction of external noise or from a hearing aid to address hearing loss associated with tinnitus. Low level laser therapy is a light-based tinnitus treatment.
If tinnitus is caused by psychological issues, cognitive behavioral therapy may be all that is necessary to address the condition. Tinnitus retraining therapy combines counseling and external sound therapy to reduce tinnitus symptoms and help the patient cope with the condition. Because tinnitus can have such a wide array of causes, the treatments for it are many and diverse. If you experience tinnitus, discuss all your options with your physician to find which tinnitus treatment is best for you.