Approximately 50 million Americans suffer from tinnitus, according to statistics collected by the American Tinnitus Association. Out of these 50 million, 2% find that quality of life is impaired as a result of this condition. This condition is characterized by a ringing noise in the area when no external sound is present. Often, patients suffering from this condition describe symptoms as a ringing, whooshing, hissing or buzzing noise which can affect one ear or both. Noise exposure is the main cause of tinnitus, be it a single exposure to a loud noise or an accumulated effect of noise exposure over an extended period of time. Head or neck injuries may also lead to symptoms appearing. A number of treatments are available, but often patients are told they need to learn to live with the symptoms.
Studies have recently been done which combine audiology treatments with psychological ones. For typical tinnitus cases, a combination of exposure to external neutral sound, counseling and retraining therapy was used. First, the patient would be provided with a sound generator to mask noises. Over time, the goal of this device is to get the patient accustomed to the new noise along with the tinnitus. This treatment is commonly prescribed for those suffering from this condition.
Where treatment differed in this study was the sound generator was combined with psychological treatments. These treatments were provided within a behavioral framework. The belief was that the noise in the ears was not the actual issue. Rather, it was the misinterpretation and fear that accompanied this noise which led to problems. By offering sound and behavioral intervention at the same time, the hope was that reaction to the sounds heard could be modified. .
Once this portion of the study had been completed, patients suffering from severe cases of tinnitus participated in group treatment. Patients who participated in this portion of the study reported a decrease in the severity of symptoms, decreased impairment and better quality of life. Once treatment was complete, patients could continue the treatment at home. If symptoms increased again, patients were offered more treatment.
With this combined treatment, patients get much needed relief. This comprehensive approach may be exactly what is needed for those patients who suffer from depression, anxiety or insomnia due to tinnitus. Anyone suffering from tinnitus should discuss this treatment method with their doctor to see if it may be of assistance to them.