Early Diagnosis and Prompt Treatment of Tinnitus is Advisable
Although it is only a symptom, a course of tinnitus treatment and correct care following a confirmed diagnosis can save sufferers a great deal of distress. While in many such cases the phenomenon is sufficiently mild to be tolerated and even overlooked, in other patients, the effect can be so severe that they become incapacitated, reluctant to work, unwilling to interact socially and unable to sleep. In such cases there is a significant risk that, if the symptom is allowed to persist for a sufficiently protracted period, the subject could eventually enter a state of severe depression.
It is reassuring to know that a great many of those who experience this condition will recover quite spontaneously. This is, typically, the case when the symptom can be attributed to some minor cause such as an excess of wax in the ear canal and outer or middle ear infections. In such cases the symptom though acute is invariably curable.
Perhaps the most common root cause encountered today, is the temporary hearing loss due to acoustic shock induced by exposure to very loud noises. These include those resulting from gunshots, disco music, factory machinery and heavy traffic. The effects of acoustic shock can be cumulative and, if sufficient recovery time is not allowed between successive exposures, the resulting hearing loss may become permanent and its distressing symptom is then likely to assume a chronic state from which spontaneous recovery is no longer possible.
It is, in fact, not the acute variety but this this chronic form of tinnitus that is most in need of treatment which should, ideally, be commenced as soon after diagnosis as possible. Because it arises from damage to sensory cells or to the normal neural pathways, the condition is not actually curable. However, with sufficient perseverance and the appropriate management, many patients are able to recover sufficiently well from its effects to maintain perfectly normal lives once more.
Specific therapies may take a variety of forms but can be quite simply categorised as being psychological, physical or chemical in nature. The symptom, in much the same manner as pain, can be exacerbated by fear and tension, both common among those that are affected by these phantom sounds. The result is a continuing cycle that tends to worsen the effects and thus successful management requires that this cycle is broken. On a psychological level this can be achieved through professional counselling based on rational emotive therapy to allay the patient’s fears and reverse that cycle to lessen rather than intensify symptoms.
Among the physical approaches that have shown promise is the selective electrical stimulation of various nerves involved in hearing but, more recently, a completely non-invasive procedure has produced some great results. A so-called neuromonics device, which looks like the wireless earpieces worn by performers, uses a two-stage process in which, first, a soothing soundtrack is used to mask the offending frequencies. Later, following a hearing test to identify them precisely, stage 2 involves the addition of those frequencies in order to confuse the brain into believing that they can now be handled.
A safe but powerful new medication is also offered by The Ear Institute. All tinnitus treatments, however, take time and following diagnosis may require several months to be effective.