It’s that time of year again! May 16th to the 20th is National Tinnitus Awareness Week (NTAW). We know, it snuck up on us too. That’s the problem with tinnitus, it’s sneaky. The theme for the year’s NTAW is “make some noise.” And we need to get noisy and generate awareness, so we can increase the likelihood that scientists will find a cure for tinnitus. But waiting for a cure, doesn’t mean waiting on treatment. That’s the good news. Today, right at this moment, there are many effective treatment options available for tinnitus.
After many years of research, scientist are starting to understand the underlying causes of the phantom whistling, whining, buzzing, and screeching sounds that affect nearly 50 million Americans. Though there is still no cure, it is currently believed a multi-treatment approach that includes meditation and stress reduction, behavioral therapy, masking and sound amplification is the best way to help relieve the perceptions of tinnitus.
YourHearing has looked into each prong of this multipronged approach and the benefits for tinnitus sufferers.
Sound amplification and masking programs: Tinnitus is often the result of untreated hearing loss. Hearing aids are thought to help tinnitus because they provide auditory stimulation. So, basically, the amplification of hearing aids minimizes tinnitus as other sounds in the environment. In addition to this benefit of using hearing aids, several hearing aid manufacturers provide masking programs to cover the sound of tinnitus and or relaxation programs to ease stress—known to exacerbate tinnitus. Here are a few well-respected tinnitus programs by manufacturers:
Meditation for stress reduction: A recent study asked people without tinnitus to accomplish a task while an annoying noise played. Some of these people were told to ignore the sound, some were given no instructions, and one group was taught to do a mindfulness exercise while they performed the task. The results? People told to ignore the sound were more distracted and gave up more quickly than the people who were told to do nothing. Further, individuals given a mindfulness exercise to do when hearing the sound performed at a level that suggested the exercise counteracted the effect of tinnitus. In other words, meditation or mindfulness practice helps dispel annoying tinnitus noises. In addition, guided meditations have been shown to decrease the harmful stress that can so often increase tinnitus.
Cognitive behavioral therapy: It’s all about your attitude. Well, not all. But when life throws things at us that we are incapable of changing, the one thing we have that we can change is our response. In addition to mindfulness exercises, behavioral therapy has been shown to help patients with tinnitus. A study at the University of Illinois Speech and Hearing Science researched why some people with tinnitus coped better with the symptoms than others. They found that people whose brains were more active in the frontal region and who used different pathways to process emotions had an easier time dealing with their tinnitus symptoms. Other studies showed that cognitive behavioral therapy increased gray matter in the prefrontal cortex. So behavioral therapy can make your brain healthier and tinnitus less noticeable. Sounds like a win/win.
Tinnitus is often described as a buzzing, whistling, whining, or screeching sound, but the truth is that people surveyed often describe the sound in dozens of competing ways. And the perceived “loudness” of sounds can also be described from mild, tiresome to debilitating. There is no one tinnitus, which is why there is no one treatment that best handles this condition. So until there is a cure for tinnitus, let’s help make some noise by spreading the word about it. If you want to help, please share this article on your Facebook or Twitter feed. Thanks!
We can help with the first prong of the treatment approach. Check out today’s hearing aids that are indicated for use in treating tinnitus. Call us today at 800.550.5399.