Promising news for tinnitus suffers
As an audiologist dedicated to bringing tinnitus relief to individuals struggling with this potentially debilitating condition, I am pleased to report on a recent study that offers hope for an exciting new treatment option. While not yet available, this new method of tinnitus treatment holds promise for the future.
Currently, I specialize in Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, which has proven highly successful in reducing symptoms in the majority of tinnitus sufferers I treat. However, the potential for achieving tinnitus relief through a new therapy option is news I’m delighted to share. Please keep in mind that more research is needed to validate this treatment option before it can become available to the public.
The new study, just published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, is relevant particularly to people suffering from severe symptoms of tinnitus. The findings are summarized below, but you can read the abstract through the National Library of Medicine.
Tinnitus relief through electromagnetic pulses
New research has found that individuals with chronic tinnitus who received treatment that involved the delivery of electromagnetic pulses had a greater improvement in tinnitus severity compared to a placebo group.
Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is noninvasive and involves delivering electromagnetic pulses through a coil to the patient’s scalp. Low-frequency rTMS – currently a treatment for depression – is known to reduce brain activity in directly stimulated regions and has been proposed as an innovative treatment strategy for medical conditions associated with increased cortical activity, including tinnitus.
The new study randomly assigned 70 participants with chronic tinnitus to receive 2,000 pulses per session of active or placebo rTMS on 10 consecutive workdays. Follow-up assessments were done at 1, 2, 4, 13, and 26 weeks after the last treatment session. Sixty-four participants were included in the final analyses. No participants withdrew from the study because of adverse effects of rTMS. Researchers measured the severity of tinnitus (or the degree of tinnitus relief) using the Tinnitus Functional Index (TFI).
The researchers found that the active rTMS group as a whole exhibited a 31 percent reduction in the TFI at the 26-week follow-up, compared with baseline. The placebo rTMS group as a whole exhibited a 7 percent reduction.
“We do not believe that rTMS should be viewed as a replacement for effective tinnitus management strategies that are available now. Instead, rTMS could augment existing tinnitus therapies and provide a viable option for patients who do not respond favorably to other treatments,” the authors write.
What the findings mean to you
The study suggests that, with further testing and validation, rTMS may prove to be a promising intervention for at least some individuals suffering from the debilitating symptoms of tinnitus. This is an important development that could impact the quality of life for millions of Americans. It’s estimated that more than 45 million people in the U.S. experience tinnitus in varying degrees.
I was pleased with the research team’s recommendation that rTMS be considered as a supplement to rather than a replacement for effective tinnitus management strategies available today.
At the Center for Hearing and Communication in New York, I see clients on a regular basis in desperate need of relief from what can be an incapacitating condition. Tinnitus Retraining Therapy is a treatment option currently available with the goal of eliminating an individual’s reaction to tinnitus. Since launching the program 18 years ago, we’ve seen an 80% success rate in bringing tinnitus relief to severe sufferers. The program has been a lifesaver for many.
This research suggests that, in the future, additional therapeutic options will likely become available, adding to the range of approaches we’ll be able to take in successfully alleviating tinnitus and hyperacusis symptoms.
Audiologist Susan Adams is a specialist in evaluating and treating tinnitus and hyperacusis at the Center for Hearing and Communication in New York.