Understanding the Various Tinnitus Treatments

The nature of tinnitus treatments can vary considerably and must, quite often, be directed solely at some specific, underlying causative condition of which these unwanted sounds within the ear are merely a symptom. Where this is not the case, however, the various approaches that have proved to be effective range from simply clearing the ear canal of wax to assisting the patient to cope more effectively with his or her symptoms, and from the use of equipment to produce electrical stimulation to  micro-surgery. In addition, of course, a fairly extensive selection of medications has been used with varying degrees of success.

While for those instances that are not secondary to infection, the result of acoustic shock or the side effect of one of some 200 or more chemicals and medications cited as having a role in its cause, success has been limited by the lack of knowledge of the actual mechanisms by which these unwanted sounds are produced. Intensive research, however, has revealed at least two possible and distinctly different explanations.

Within the inner ear are thousands of tiny, ciliated cells that vibrate in response to sounds while outer sensory cells convert nerve signals vibration in a membrane. The whole system is normally maintained in a state of balance that only responds to sounds whose volume equals or exceeds this resting threshold. In a manner similar to that employed in electronic circuits, a feedback loop between the brain and the sensing cells is what serves to maintain that threshold. One explanation for the mechanics of tinnitus that has also influenced treatments is some disturbance to this feedback loop that may lower that threshold and allow various sounds generated naturally within the ear and surrounding region that would normally be inaudible, to be detected by the sufferer.

Damage to the receptor cells is the second of the possible explanations that have emerged for this phenomenon. While most other animals have the capacity to regenerate them, in mammals, this appears to be only possible during the embryonic stage and, even though new ones may be grown by means of tissue cultures, they remain non-functional.

It is believed that damage to the receptor cells renders them insensitive to certain frequencies; nonetheless, it may still continue to generate the signals that indicate those frequencies are present even in the absence of all external sound. This would appear to be the mechanism that applies when the damage to these cells is the result of acoustic shock and, where such damage is permanent some form of intervention is likely to be needed.

Some of the remedies involve attitudinal changes. The condition is worsened by anxiety so learning to be less reactive to the symptoms can, in turn, lead to a lessening of their intensity. Known as Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT), it requires professional help that may include the use of sound enrichment techniques and patience on the part of the sufferer.

Techniques involving electrical stimulation have proved effective and range from direct stimulation of specific nerves to implantation of electrodes. In many case however, the simple use of a hearing aid may prove sufficient. The healthcare professionals at The Ear Institute have extensive experience in the detection of tinnitus and its treatments that include the highly-effective micronutrient formulation – Hearing HealthTM.

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