Tinnitus is defined as any sound you can hear that is not coming from an external source. The Australian Tinnitus Association reports around 18% of the population experiences tinnitus. Although there is much ongoing research worldwide, we still don’t always know why it is there or what is causing it. Currently there is no cure although there is plenty of research investigating possible treatments. One of the big problems is that the experience of tinnitus varies from individual to individual and quantifying tinnitus is difficult so it is challenging to design a rigorous scientific experiment.
Cochrane is an independent conglomeration of independent researchers who look at the evidence for health issues. They are looking for high-quality research that clearly demonstrates how effective a treatment is. I had a look at their reviews of a number of the most commonly recommended tinnitus treatments. These are Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT), Sound Therapy (masking) in the management of tinnitus in adults, zinc supplements for tinnitus treatment, and using Gingko Biloela for tinnitus treatment.
For zinc and Gingko Biloela no evidence was found of any success in treating or reducing the effects of tinnitus.
For CBT the research shows a positive effect on depression and ability to cope with tinnitus. However the Cochrane reviews stated that more research is required to examine long-term benefits.
For TRT the summary was that more research is needed not enough high-quality research has been conducted.
For Sound Therapy (masking) in the management of tinnitus in adults the reviewers did not find sufficient evidence to show the effectiveness of this treatment. However they did comment that, although there was inconclusive evidence, this does not indicate no effectiveness for this treatment. They also made the comment that sound therapy is rarely used in isolation and this makes it difficult to determine its effectiveness alone.
What about the Antinitus Patch?
This is a new approach to tinnitus treatment, and very few studies have been conducted. The most recent one (Ahnblad and Nordkvist (2017) showed a significant reduction in tinnitus in 30% of the people involved in the study. Further research is required to see if this effect can be replicated.
So What to Recommend?
As no treatment has been shown to work for everyone, it is important to consider trying a few different things.
As we believe that most tinnitus is caused by a damaged hearing system, wearing hearing aids will help with this. Wearing hearing aids reduces listening fatigue and cognitive load (when people say things like ‘I find it hard to hear through my tinnitus’). Another advantage of hearing aids is that they come with a masker for tinnitus treatment, so you can also try this out along with the amplification.This means that, if the masking works for you, you can use the masker all day as the sound comes through the hearing aid that you wear on your ear. A masker is a form of sound therapy.
You also need to address the psychological disturbance caused by tinnitus. This can be achieved through counselling, relaxation techniques, or sessions with a clinical psychologist depending on the severity.
If the tinnitus is preventing you from sleeping, you need to address this as a priority. This may involve using something like the Sound Oasis machine (available from our tinnitus relief shop) to play soothing, distracting sounds such as ocean waves.
For tinnitus treatment you need to be committed to the treatments long-term and be willing to explore many different options to find out which approach works for you. For example, some people find just wearing hearing aids is enough, others need a sound generator at night-time, others have found the Antinitus patch gives the best results.
Affordable Hearing has a Tinnitus Treatment program, consisting of 3 appointments over three months. Click here for more information http://www.affordablehearing.com.au/hearing-services/tinnitus-testing-treatment/.