Tinnitus is the perception by an individual of a persistent ringing, buzzing or whistling sound in the ears (subjective tinnitus). Only in rare cases is tinnitus also audible to the physician (objective tinnitus). Chronic tinnitus is hardly ever associated with a single, definite cause or a single therapy that brings immediate benefit. Even if the origins of this hearing disorder cannot always be determined, it is crucial to carry out adequate diagnostic procedures in order to rule out any serious causes. Therapy is most effective if started concurrently with diagnostics and carried on afterwards.
Treatment methods are available which lead to a loss of the perception of tinnitus and noise sensitivity (hyperacusis) in many tinnitus sufferers. All of the approaches we present here are based on the use of special devices. Individually designed strategies under professional guidance (usually in collaboration with centres for psychosomatic medicine) can considerably reduce – or even achieve a total cure for – the tinnitus, which many people find extremely irritating.
Typical causes of tinnitus include:
- Exposure to noise
- Hearing disorders such as otitis media or tumours
- Sudden hearing loss
- Circulatory problems involving the small blood vessels in the inner ear
- Menière’s disease
- Side effects of medication
- Injuries of the cervical spine and poor posture
- Spinal disorders
- High blood pressure
- Dental diseases and malpositioned teeth
- Blood circulation noise
Tinnitus can also be triggered by a combination of the causes mentioned above.
Therapy options with special devices
Amplification and masking
Devices are available which either suppress or mask tinnitus. These are called noisers or maskers and look like a small hearing aid.
The masking effect is achieved when the device generates a pleasant noise to cover the tinnitus. The noiser, on the other hand, generates a noise of an intensity similar to that of the tinnitus itself. The affected ear perceives the tinnitus and the covering noise, making the tinnitus feel less intrusive.
A ‘tinnitus instrument’ is a combination of a hearing aid and a tinnitus device (noiser). Hearing aids have the purpose of amplifying and processing the auditory signal. The tinnitus device in combination with a hearing aid amplifies the sound and generates a defined noise in the ear or the external ear canal.
The therapy option called ‘tinnitus retraining’ combines a device with the strategy of psychosomatic masking. This is especially important for patients who are severely affected by their tinnitus. This therapeutic approach involves three components:
Ask the physician(s) treating you about current studies you can participate in.