Tips for Tinnitus Sufferers Get Inside the Brain
While the sounds and effects of tinnitus are well-documented and well-known, effective treatment of the condition has remained a challenge. For many tinnitus sufferers, though, understanding how a key area of the brain drives their tinnitus may provide an answer.
Tinnitus is often described as buzzing, ringing, hissing, humming, roaring, or whistling that someone hears in the absence of any external sound. More than 50 million people in the United States alone suffer from the condition, according to the American Tinnitus Association. Usually brought on by exposure to loud noise, the problem is especially significant in the military, with more than 34 percent of returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from the condition.
For many of these individuals, understanding that the brain’s limbic system drives their tinnitus may be the key to results, according to Casie Keaton, Au.D., with Neuromonics, Inc. The company manufactures and distributes the FDA-cleared, patented and clinically proven medical device designed for long-term significant tinnitus relief.
“The limbic system is the area of the brain where we translate and process how things emotionally affect us,” says Keaton. “The extent to which a patient’s limbic system is involved has everything to do with how much tinnitus affects an individual on a day-to-day basis.” Damage to an individual’s auditory system generates the tinnitus signal, the audiologist explains. But it is the brain’s limbic system that sends the message that the tinnitus signal is something harmful and threatening, and for which to be on the lookout.
Looking beyond the literal sounds of tinnitus, and to the underlying drivers, leads to several ways to positively impact tinnitus, Keaton continues. She suggests a combination of one or more of the following techniques.
1. Music treatment – Customized, programmed music can work to desensitize a person’s tinnitus perception, not simply mask the sounds of tinnitus. The Neuromonics treatment works with a devise that looks like a small consumer music player. The individual wears the device for a prescribed number of hours on a daily basis, listening to soothing music that audiologists customize to the person’s unique hearing profile. Independent studies show that more than 90 percent of patients who use the treatment experience a significant reduction in tinnitus.
4. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – The therapy with the most significant impact for tinnitus patients, CBT provides redirection and tools to make the lifestyle changes that make the greatest difference for sufferers.
According to Keaton, tinnitus sufferers seeking treatment should look for trained audiologists who are familiar with the limbic system’s role in tinnitus, who can accurately assess an individual’s degree of tinnitus, and who can provide individualized treatment suggestions.
“Understanding how the brain perceives tinnitus, and the role of the limbic system, can provide more hope for tinnitus sufferers today,” says Keaton. “Professional audiologists are more equipped than ever to help individuals determine their degree of tinnitus, and the best combination of treatment methods.”
Neuromonics, Inc. (http://www.neuromonics.com)
Based in Bethlehem, Pa., Neuromonics, Inc., manufactures and distributes the FDA-cleared, patented and clinically proven medical device designed for long-term significant relief of tinnitus. With research and development beginning in the early 1990s, the Neuromonics Tinnitus Treatment has helped thousands of tinnitus sufferers improve their quality of life and overcome the daily life challenges associated with tinnitus. The treatment has been featured on national news media including “The Doctors” and CNN.