How do you treat tinnitus?
There are no good medications for tinnitus but many things can help.
- Distract yourself from the tinnitus by having a window open or leaving the radio on quietly in the background.
- A sound generator (which looks like a hearing aid) produces soothing sounds and can be worn through the day.
- Tinnitus retraining therapy at a specialist clinic can be effective but takes about a year.
Can anything help or cure tinnitus?
In a small number of cases there is an underlying cause which may be corrected. For example, if a side-effect of a medicine that you are taking is causing tinnitus then a change of medication may cure the problem. If earwax or an ear infection is the cause then again, once this is cleared, the tinnitus settles.
Antidepressant medicines called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have helped people in whom the tinnitus causes anxiety and/or depression.
In most cases there is no easy cure. Some people are helped by understanding the problem and knowing that they do not have a serious underlying condition. With time, the tinnitus may become less of a problem as you adjust to it. In addition, the following often help.
If possible, avoid being in quiet or silent rooms. You are more likely to focus on the tinnitus and be distressed by it if there is nothing else to listen to. Other more pleasant sounds can be distracting and help to make the tinnitus less noticeable. This is sometimes called sound therapy. For example, listen to the radio, TV, or stereo. Perhaps leave a window open so outside sounds are more evident. Some people wear a sound generator. This looks similar to a hearing aid but makes a pleasant sound which helps to mask the unpleasant tinnitus noise. Some people use CD or MP3 players to listen to pleasant sounds.
Tinnitus is often most noticeable when you are quiet and trying to get off to sleep. If you play a radio or stereo it can help to mask the tinnitus noise until you drop off to sleep. (One with a timer is best so it switches itself off when you are asleep.) Some people connect a radio or stereo to special pillow speakers which go under the pillow. This enables them to listen to the music or radio without anyone else being disturbed. Some specially designed pillows have speakers actually inside the pillow itself which you connect to your radio or stereo.
If you find getting off to sleep a problem, see separate leaflet called Insomnia (Poor Sleep) for more details.
If you have any deafness, even just a slight hearing loss, a hearing aid may help. The aid boosts normal sounds which you may not otherwise hear. These may override the tinnitus noise.
Stress anxiety and depression
Some people become anxious or stressed by tinnitus. This can make things worse. You may benefit from learning ways to relax and to combat stress. There are other leaflets in this series which offer advice on easing stress and anxiety. If you become particularly anxious or become depressed it is best to see a doctor for advice on treatment.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is a brain-training psychological therapy which may also help you deal with the effect tinnitus has on you.
Are there specialist tinnitus clinics?
Some ear departments have specialist tinnitus clinics. These offer such things as counselling, advice on sound therapy, relaxation techniques and other advice on ways to cope with living with tinnitus.
For example, in severe cases, a treatment called tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) may be used. Some studies show that this can help in up to three in four cases. TRT aims to help the brain learn to ignore the tinnitus. (The tinnitus is not stopped but the aim is to become less bothered by it.) TRT involves wearing a sound generator (described above). This therapy is accompanied by regular counselling sessions which aim to help you cope with the tinnitus. TRT can take as long as a year. You gradually learn not to focus on your tinnitus until it becomes much less bothersome, even without using the sound generator.
Further reading and references
Tinnitus; NICE CKS, April 2010 (UK access only)
Tunkel DE, Bauer CA, Sun GH, et al; Clinical practice guideline: tinnitus. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2014 Oct151(2 Suppl):S1-S40. doi: 10.1177/0194599814545325.
Phillips JS, McFerran D; Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) for tinnitus. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010 Mar 173:CD007330.
Hobson J, Chisholm E, El Refaie A; Sound therapy (masking) in the management of tinnitus in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Nov 1411:CD006371. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD006371.pub3.
Martinez-Devesa P, Perera R, Theodoulou M, et al; Cognitive behavioural therapy for tinnitus. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010 Sep 8(9):CD005233. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD005233.pub3.
Hi I'm new to this and hoping someone can help. I've been diagnosed just this week with SSHL, severe hearing loss on right ear around 90db mark. On massive dose of steroids to see if some of hearing...Ollieboo
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