Treatment of tinnitus depends on the cause of the problem
Treating tinnitus can be difficult because the cause of the problem is not always clear. On this page, tinnitus advisor Helen Cosgrove looks at the treatment options available to people who suffer from tinnitus.
An introduction to tinnitus treatment
Tinnitus can be a difficult problem to treat. If an underlying cause is identified, addressing the root problem will give the best chance of resolving symptoms. For many people however, there is no single clear cause for their tinnitus – the problem appears without warning and may equally, disappear suddenly even after several months or years.
Tinnitus treatments when there is an underlying cause
When tinnitus is a symptom of a health problem, treating the underlying condition will often lead to a resolution of symptoms. For example:
- A middle ear infection may be treated using antibiotics
- Excessive or impacted ear wax can be treated by ear drops and syringing of the ears
- Inner ear disorders giving rise to tinnitus such as Meniere’s disease may be treated using a type of antihistamine
- If tinnitus is the result of a side effect of a medicine, then finding an alternative will be the logical solution to the symptoms experienced.
Tinnitus treatments if there is no underlying cause
Not being able to identify an underlying cause of the tinnitus makes the problem more difficult to treat or cure. Your doctor may suggest a number of treatments or aids to help you cope with symptoms better, distracting you from the noises you are hearing. These include:
- A sound generator placed close to your bed playing natural sounds such as sea waves, bird songs, white noise etc. These external sounds take your mind off tinnitus and may help those with sleeping difficulties due to tinnitus to fall asleep.
- Maskers – these noise generators are worn in the ear like a hearing aid and can mask tinnitus by producing sounds that distract you from the noise you normally hear.
If your symptoms are more severe or persistent, then therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which retrains the way in which you think about and perceive a situation, or tinnitus retraining therapy which helps you tune out tinnitus noises in the same way that you would background noise such as an air-conditioning fan, may be more effective.
Details on these types of therapies will be available from your GP.
In addition, there are some steps you can take to help yourself, including avoiding certain foods.
Complementary tinnitus treatments
Over the years, a number of complementary or alternative treatments have been used to help treat tinnitus. These include:
- Acupuncture - a traditional Chinese therapy where fine needles are inserted into certain points in the body
- Aromatherapy – helps you relax through the use of essential oils, massaged into the skin
- Reflexology - where certain points on the feet are worked on by a therapist
- Osteopathy - where the body is manipulated and massaged to correct any body skeletal or postural imbalances
- Supplements – such as zinc, B vitamins and magnesium
- Apple cider vinegar in water or honey – a traditional remedy recommended by naturopaths
- Herbal medicines - such as Ginkgo biloba have been shown in some people to have a favourable effect in reducing tinnitus, especially pulsatile tinnitus. An example is Ginkgoforce® Gingko biloba tablets, a licensed herbal remedy for relieving the symptoms of tinnitus in one or both ears.