Millions of Americans suffer from the discomfort and disruption caused by tinnitus, more commonly described as "ringing in the ears." A new treatment could help patients by training their minds while sleeping.
'Ringing In The Ears'
Though tinnitus is often described as a "ringing in the ears," it could also sound like roaring, clicking, buzzing, or hissing sounds heard in one or both ears. In some individuals, the sound is so disturbing that it can disrupt daily activities.
There is so far no cure for tinnitus, but common treatments suggested by health care providers may include using hearing aids or sound-masking devices, taking medications, and other methods to simply mask the noise. Some may even recommend talk therapy.
According to a 2016 report in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, about one in 10 adults lives with the condition.
Now, a fairly new system may help sufferers of tinnitus to significantly reduce the disturbing sounds by listening to it while sleeping, when the brain is said to be more "plastic." The idea behind the system is that by making the brain accustomed to the tinnitus-related sound while sleeping, it can essentially ignore the sounds while awake. Though this method makes the sound completely disappear, it can make it more tolerable, thus less disruptive to daily activities.
Individuals who wish to try out the system must first get a consultation with a hearing professional to determine if the system is right for them. After the consultation and taking the Tinnitus Functional Index test, the patient will be fitted with customized earbuds to be used with an iPad or iPod.
By the next visit, the hearing professional will assist the patient to find the right sound match that is unique to the patient, and this is the sound that the patient will listen to in their sleep for 90 days and afterward, as needed. With the help of the FDA-cleared system, the brain should soon get accustomed to the sound while sleeping, making it less pronounced when awake.
As mentioned, tinnitus sounds may vary from ringing to clicking and other disturbing sounds. Though individuals may experience tinnitus in varying degrees, those with severe tinnitus may have difficulties in sleeping, hearing, or working.
The condition may be caused by different things, including heart or blood vessel problems, hearing loss in older people, Meniere's disease, brain tumors, hormonal changes, medications, thyroid problems, ear and sinus infections, and exposure to loud noises.
There is no specific cure for tinnitus, but the treatments may vary depending on the cause of the condition.