Is there a cure for tinnitus? This question is often asked, particularly from those whose tinnitus has caused confusion and depression.
Unfortunately, there’s currently no cure for severe cases of tinnitus since it is often only a symptom of a bigger issue at play. Tinnitus, also known as Meniere’s disease, is the name given to strange sounds in your ears, such as buzzing, ringing, and whistling and can be brought about by noise-induced hearing loss (a loud noise), a damaged auditory nerve, age-related hearing loss, or something more sinister. The severity of tinnitus can range from mild to severe and debilitating. Though there is tinnitus treatment to help you manage the symptoms, it isn’t always effective and the day-to-day living of patients can be severely affected by tinnitus.
Veterans from the military are at a higher risk for tinnitus and other hearing problems than civilians. In fact, tinnitus is the most common disability for veterans.
Once you find what’s causing your tinnitus, you can take steps to lessen this annoying symptom. We’re going to go over different treatments for tinnitus and how it’s diagnosed.
How Tinnitus Is Diagnosed
Tinnitus symptoms vary. However, if you hear any strange noises and endure any discomfort, you may want to visit your doctor. First, a doctor may run a few tests on you to help discover the underlying condition that’s causing your tinnitus. There are several hearing exams your doctor may use, most of these tests being subjective.
This means the results will vary from patient to patient.
In order to treat your tinnitus, it helps to know what’s causing the symptom in the first place.
Some of these tests include:
- Pure tone audiogram: To determine if the tinnitus is caused by hearing loss, a doctor may have you take a hearing exam called a pure tone audiogram. This test includes you wearing a set of headphones. Your doctor will play a variety of noises and sounds for each ear and at different frequencies and volumes. You’ll notify the doctor each time you hear the sound.
- Speech recognition test: This type of hearing exam tests your ability to hear speech and distinguish certain words. They use headphones so they can test each ear separately. Your doctor will read off a series of words at different volumes. You have to repeat the word back to them so they know you’ve heard the word properly. This determines if you can hear and understand conversations and at what level you can hear speech.
- Tympanogram: A tympanogram determines how well the mobility of the tympanic membrane and the conduction bones are, located within your middle ear. After examining your ear visually, your doctor will use a probe with a rubber tip. They insert the rubber tip of the probe into the ear they’re testing. This probe causes air pressure in your ear canal to change while you listen to low-toned noises and sounds.
There are numerous ways to end up with tinnitus. However, there’s one major cause of tinnitus in veterans and those still serving in the military.
This is noise-induced tinnitus. As a soldier, you’re exposed to prolonged loud noises, from engine rooms to the constant use of firearms and other weapons. There’s no way to avoid these constant loud noises as a soldier.
That’s why prevention is key to stop tinnitus and hearing loss before it starts. Using ear plugs is the best way to protect your ears from hearing loss and tinnitus.
Types of Tinnitus
There are a variety of causes of tinnitus which can lead to a variety of sounds. It’s different for everyone
Since there’s a variety of causes of tinnitus, there are a few different types of tinnitus.
Some of these types of tinnitus include:
- Subjective Tinnitus: Subjective tinnitus is the most commonly diagnosed tinnitus in both civilians and soldiers alike. This type of tinnitus is usually caused by prolonged exposure to loud noises. One type of subjective tinnitus includes sensory tinnitus. This means there’s a disruption in your auditory system. It can also cause you to feel unbalanced.
- Somatic Tinnitus: Somatic tinnitus is created by physical movement. It’s usually caused by muscle spasms in your neck. Instead of being caused by a sensory problem, it’s caused by some outside force.
- Objective Tinnitus: Objective tinnitus is a rare form of tinnitus. When it’s referred to as “objective,” meaning that a doctor can also hear the sounds produced in your ear with a stethoscope. These sounds usually follow in time with your heartbeat.
Treatments for Tinnitus
Unless something curable is causing your tinnitus, you may have to deal with it for the rest of your life. On the bright side, there are some treatments that can make dealing with tinnitus so much easier.
Some of these treatments include:
- Hearing aids: In most cases, if you’ve been in the military, you will have tinnitus that’s coupled with hearing loss. Hearing aids can not only help you hear, but many also find comfort from tinnitus. The more expensive hearing aids even include features for tinnitus therapy.
- White Noise: Along with hearing aids, there are other options for noise suppression. These devices can help suppress the noise in your ears. You can use a white noise machine or even a fan or air conditioner.
- Masking Devices: Masking devices fit in your ear much like a hearing aid. These devices usually create a constant signal or even tonal beats. These types of sounds mask the tinnitus sound you’re dealing with.
- Tinnitus Retraining Therapy: Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (also known as
- TRT) is cognitive behavior therapy with the aid of a masking device. This trains you to ignore tinnitus.
- Prescription Medication: There are prescription medications that help suppress the noise produced by your tinnitus when nothing else seems to work. The two main medications prescribed for tinnitus are amitriptyline and nortriptyline.
- Alternative Medicine: Some vets find relief when using alternative medicines out there. This can include acupuncture, hypnosis, and different supplements and vitamins.
The Bottom Line
Tinnitus can be severe and make like difficult in some. There are no true cures for it, but it can be managed with different treatment options. Between you and your doctor’s professional opinion, you should find the treatment that’s best for you.