What is the most effective treatment available for tinnitus?
The most effective tinnitus management strategy will be different for every individual and will depend on the cause and severity of their tinnitus awareness. The aim of tinnitus management is not to stop the tinnitus, but to achieve habituation (where the tinnitus is heard but does not intrude on everyday life and activities).
The first step in the management of tinnitus is to assess hearing and ear structures and look for obvious causes of tinnitus awareness. Tinnitus is usually not a sign of something serious but can indicate the presence of certain ear conditions in some cases. Therefore, it is an important step to have the cause of tinnitus awareness investigated. This can also put the patient’s mind at ease that their tinnitus is not a sign of something more serious.
The second step is to assess the severity of one’s tinnitus awareness and the impact this has on the person’s life. This is usually done by discussion with the patient and use of scientifically calculated questionaries, such as the Tinnitus Functional Index (TFI).
Once this information has been collected, then we can discuss management strategies. Management strategies include hearing aids, sound enrichment/therapy, identification and modification of trigger factors (for example, stress, fatigue and high salt diet) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
Hearing aids can help with tinnitus by a) treating hearing loss (which is the most underlying cause of tinnitus) and b) helping to mask the tinnitus sound with the use of masking noise generated by the hearing aids.
Sound enrichment involves the use of music, TV and/or radio noise to mask the tinnitus and give the brain something else to focus on. Especially in quiet situations such as when going to sleep or reading a book. The more you focus on the tinnitus the louder it is perceived.
Tinnitus can be aggravated by factors such as stress, lack of sleep, high salt diet, high caffeine intake, lack of exercise, medications, neck tension or dental pain. Controlling these trigger factors where possible can help to reduce the severity of tinnitus awareness and provide you with insight as to why your tinnitus might be worse on some days compared to others.
Further tinnitus management options include referral to tinnitus specialist audiologists for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and/or tinnitus Retraining Therapy. These are counselling techniques used to help an individual understand their tinnitus, change attitudes toward tinnitus and reduce the burden of tinnitus awareness on their daily life. More information on these therapies can be provided at your appointment with an audiologist where needed.