Tinnitus is a condition in which sounds are heard which are not present outside the head. Treatment may become necessary if tinnitus is severe enough to cause distress. Tinnitus treatment varies but includes options such as counseling, retraining the brain to pay less attention to the unwanted sounds, and sound therapy. Sound therapy uses pleasant noises to lessen the impact of tinnitus and allows people to cope with the condition. Where tinnitus is associated with depression, antidepressant medication may sometimes be required.
Typically, the sounds of tinnitus become most obvious in quiet situations, such as when a person is falling asleep at night. There are a number of causes but, most often, the cause remains unknown. Rarely, sounds can be heard by other people and are caused by movements inside the head, such as abnormal blood flow.
Sometimes a medical condition such as an ear infection, or an underactive thyroid gland, can lead to tinnitus. Where possible, tinnitus therapy involves treating underlying conditions, in the hope that the unwanted noises will stop once the cause is corrected. In most cases, a tinnitus cure is not possible, but a number of different tinnitus therapies are available to manage the condition and make the symptoms less troublesome.
For people who have tinnitus and hearing loss, tinnitus therapy may involve wearing hearing aids. As other sounds become clearer, the noise of tinnitus often recedes. For those without any hearing loss, a type of hearing aid known as a white noise generator may be beneficial. White noise generators deliver a constant, gentle sound which masks the noise of tinnitus. They are also used in what is called tinnitus retraining therapy.
Tinnitus retraining therapy is suitable for people who suffer from severe tinnitus. It involves teaching the brain to pay less attention to the intrusive sounds. White noise generators are worn and combined with regular sessions with a counselor. This type of tinnitus therapy may last for up to a year, but can result in a person being much less troubled by tinnitus and no longer requiring the noise generators.
As well as white noise generators, there are other forms of tinnitus therapy that use sound. Recordings of natural sounds or music are available which can lower a person's awareness of tinnitus. If tinnitus is preventing sleep, sounds may be played by a machine beside the bed or pillows with speakers can be used. It is most effective if the volume of the sounds is slightly lower than that of the tinnitus noise, as the therapy works by accustoming sufferers to their problem over time. Eventually, as tinnitus becomes less bothersome and problems such as sleeplessness improve, tinnitus therapy should not be needed.