Tinnitus is a lot more complicated than just ringing in your ears. It involves many different organs and parts of your body.
Get a better understanding of tinnitus and learn the latest breakthroughs in finding a cure for tinnitus.
There are many treatments prescribed for tinnitus.
In most cases, it’s your family doctor who looks after your treatment options.
But some physicians refer their patients to a tinnitus specialist.
For a long time, doctors believed that problems with your ears is what caused tinnitus.
Because the ringing is… in your ears.
But as science progressed, researchers discovered that many types of tinnitus are caused by issues with your brain and central nervous system or connected to underlying health issues.
With these breakthroughs, they realized that to treat this problem they needed to involve many different specialties in medicine, surgery, psychology and neuroscience.
The input of these different areas of medicine has brought a clearer understanding of how and why tinnitus occurs has been documented.
From there, these researchers and specialists have been testing new treatments.
In fact, many are hopeful that a true cure will be found within the next five to ten years.
Because these researchers come from different medical and scientific backgrounds, they are focusing on different targets, as well as trying new and innovative approaches.
To get a complete answer to the question “is tinnitus curable” you need to understand exactly what tinnitus is.
For the type of tinnitus that is related to your ears, what happens is there are unusual changes in your cochlea’s nerve activity.
This results from abnormal pressure or irritation in the middle ear that causes some form of hearing loss.
To make up for the loss of sound in the damaged middle ear, your auditory system overcompensates by creating imaginary sounds in your brain that you “hear.”
But that’s not the only cause of tinnitus.
When you are hearing ringing or buzzing in your ears, it could be related to your:
- Auditory nervous system
- Cardiovascular issues such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol
- Head, neck and jaw muscles and skeletal structure
- Diseases such as Meniere’s disease, diabetes, thyroid issues, Lyme disease and others
- Lacking key vitamins and minerals
- Somatosensory system
- Reactions to certain foods, medications or stimulants, like caffeine or smoking
- Brain injury, anxiety, stress and depression
Which is one of the many reasons why doctors have struggled to find a cure.
The other thing you need to know is that tinnitus is like experiencing phantom pain.
You know it’s there.
You hear it.
But in many cases it doesn’t show up on MRIs, CT scans or other imaging technology.
Because of the many root causes of tinnitus, a proper diagnosis can be hard to come by.
Which makes it hard for you to find an effective cure and treatment plan for your tinnitus.
Each form of tinnitus needs its own specific solution – and even then, the results could be different from person to person.
The Problem With Tinnitus
There are many issues when it comes to finding a cure for tinnitus.
- The fact is, tinnitus is not a single disease. It is a group of diseases – which means it can’t be properly treated by just one, single approach.
- There is a lack of funding for tinnitus research.
- Because of its complexity, there is a lot of uncertainty as to its root causes in many cases and which part of your ear and brain are most affected.
- All the subtypes of tinnitus are very confusing. Your tinnitus sounds different than someone else’s. Some patterns in tinnitus can help categorize the cause or source of your tinnitus, but it’s not foolproof.
Because of all of those issues, it can be hard to find a specialist who can find a solution for your tinnitus.
Many tinnitus sufferers need help from not only their primary care physician but also audiologists, neurologists, psychologists and others.
There are currently several studies going on to find a cure for tinnitus.
Until one of those is a sure-fire thing, there are professional treatment options that have been shown to work in clinical trials and studies.
And there are also tinnitus home remedies you can try yourself to find relief.
Let’s start by looking at the latest discoveries for a tinnitus cure.
Tinnitus Cure Breakthrough Studies
Even though there is a lack of funding for a tinnitus cure, that does not mean that there is no work being done at all.
In fact, an older study looked over the notes and personal files of 69 randomized clinical trials that spanned decades to see where there were promising treatments and studies that should be further explored.
These 69 randomized clinical trials evaluated many types of treatments and theories, ranging from many types of:
- Electrical and magnetic stimulation
- Noise masking
- Other non-drug treatments
As you can see, there are constant studies for a tinnitus cure.
1. Prescription Medication
There are no FDA-approved pharmacological treatments for tinnitus yet.
But research shows that because of the areas of your brain that are connected to tinnitus, many researchers are hopeful that tinnitus could be treated with a targeted pharmacological approach.
Although they aren’t marketed or advertised as tinnitus treatments, some doctors prescribe various medications to try to help their patients with tinnitus.
The entire list is exhaustive, but here are a few that seem to be prescribed the most:
- Anti-anxiety drugs
- Medication for seizures
- Drugs that are aimed at preventing Alzheimer’s
- Nervous system drugs that help with bladder issues
- Allergy symptom medication
- Medications that dilate blood vessels
- Drugs for various psychotic disorders
- High blood pressure medication
- Medications to help regulate fluid balance in your body
Several studies have looked at the effectiveness of using lidocaine, an anesthetic, as a tinnitus treatment.
The theory is that lidocaine affects the central pathway of tinnitus.
One method to treat tinnitus with lidocaine requires taking it intravenously.
It was shown to produce a change in brain activity where hearing is produced.
Unfortunately, its effects only last for a few minutes and it often had nasty side effects.
Other studies have tried using a lidocaine patch to relieve tinnitus.
Although there is some promising evidence of it working, it is not effective for everyone.
In one study that showed tinnitus improvement, many participants dropped out after one month because they found the lidocaine patch too big, uncomfortable and unsightly.
3. Oxytocin Nasal Spray
Oxytocin is a hormone that is usually released during social bonding or cuddling.
The nerve pathways that are connected to tinnitus are both hearing and non-hearing related.
Because oxytocin is produced by nerve cells and is also used to transmit messages to nerve cells, there have been pilot studies to see if taking this hormone through a nasal spray would help tinnitus symptoms.
So far, these studies have been small in scale.
However, there is currently a study being conducted by NYU with a larger number of participants to measure the effectiveness of high-dose oxytocin nasal spray for treating tinnitus over the long term.
4. Auditory-Somatosensory Bimodal Stimulation
Small trials have been performed to test how effective electrical stimulation to ease tinnitus is.
A device is placed on the base of your head and back of your neck.
It then sends precise sounds and mild electrical pulses to stimulate specific nerves that are believed to be connected to the perception of tinnitus.
Early findings show that the participants in the trial had an improvement in the loudness of their tinnitus and it interfered less with their daily life.
There were no side effects noted from the trial.
Because it is a simple device that you place on the outside of your body for only 30 minutes per day, it is much less invasive than risky surgeries.
With these hopeful results, new funding is going into developing this technique for further testing and to help more tinnitus sufferers find relief.
The drug clonazepam is an oral medication taken to prevent and control seizures and help with panic disorder.
There have been studies to see the results of using clonazepam as a tinnitus remedy.
The results showed that tinnitus loudness, duration, annoyance and overall quality of life interference were significantly improved in 60-75% of the participants.
However, clonazepam is from the drug class benzodiazepine, which is highly addictive and has severe withdrawal symptoms.
In fact, one of their well-known withdrawal symptoms is to make the original issue you were seeking relief from worse once you ease off.
This drug class is not safe to take long-term.
The maximum recommended length to take any benzodiazepine is 2 to 3 weeks.
Because of this, clonazepam does not show promise of being a tinnitus cure.
6. Cochlear Implants
A cochlear implant is a small electronic device that stimulates the cochlear nerve through electronic impulses.
The implant is installed through surgery and has parts inside and outside your body.
Patients who suffer moderate to severe hearing loss are often good candidates for cochlear implants.
The outside part sits behind your ear and on the back of your head.
It picks up sound with a microphone and then sends the sound to the internal part of the device.
It replaces the biological hearing process with electronic signals that directly stimulate your auditory nerve.
Since many who suffer from hearing loss also experience tinnitus, observing changes in tinnitus severity after cochlear implants has been examined in multiple studies.
Many of these studies have shown that there can be (and often is) a vast improvement in tinnitus after the implants are installed, including some people whose tinnitus is completely cured after surgery.
In some rare cases, the tinnitus worsens or starts after cochlear implants are put in.
Because the implants stimulate electrical impulses but are turned off at night, some users have improved tinnitus during the day that worsens at night when the device is turned off.
Studies also show that anxiety is significantly improved in many patients after the operation to install cochlear implants.
7. Hair Cell Regenerating Drugs
There are currently some trials going on to develop hair cell-regenerating drugs aimed at restoring dead inner ear hair cells.
In humans, once your inner ear hair cells die, they do not come back.
But some labs are testing different ways to encourage those dead cells to revive or grow new hairs.
Scientists are hopeful that they will be able to help treat tinnitus and hearing loss through the treatments they are developing.
Current Traditional Professional Tinnitus Treatment Options
While we wait for a true tinnitus cure breakthrough, several remedies can help with your tinnitus.
Currently, effectively reducing the effects of tinnitus involves not just a single treatment, but a combination of different remedies.
Tinnitus treatments can be divided into two categories:
- Directly reducing the intensity of tinnitus
- Relieving the annoyance associated with tinnitus
The goal of these treatments is to reduce your perception of the noise in your head.
These treatments can drastically improve your quality of life.
Professionals that treat tinnitus usually prescribe one or more of the following solutions to treat your tinnitus.
1. Hearing Aids
Most cases of tinnitus are developed as a symptom of hearing loss.
This is usually attributed to old age or auditory trauma.
Because hearing loss causes fewer sound stimuli to reach your brain, it tends to process sounds at different frequencies.
The result of these abnormal frequencies is what you hear as tinnitus.
Hearing aids are the most common solution to hearing loss.
Studies have shown that at least 60% of people with tinnitus said they experienced some degree of relief by using hearing aids.
These small electronic devices are worn in or behind the ear and amplify the volume of external sounds to help distract your brain from your tinnitus.
Modern hearing aids feature open-fit designs and even come with supplemental sound masking systems in the form of artificial ambient sounds that lessen the perception of tinnitus.
Some even come with smartphone apps to help you use and customize them according to your personal needs.
2. Sound Masking and Noise Suppression Devices
These devices act like Band-Aids: They mask or cover up the sound of ringing in your ear.
They work by generating low-level noise to partially drown out internal tinnitus sounds.
They usually play sounds that range from white or ambient noise to nature sounds like running water.
The effectiveness of these devices depends on matching the ringing noise you hear.
Audiologists typically use a pitch and loudness test to set the signal to a level that’s similar to the tinnitus sounds you hear.
Traditionally, these devices came in the form of a tabletop sound machine that provided background noise.
Today, modern upgrades have popped up that are worn in the ear like a hearing aid.
They produce either a constant signal or tonal beats to cover up your tinnitus sounds.
3. Evaluate And Treat Underlying Conditions
Tinnitus itself is not an illness. It’s a symptom of an underlying condition.
Whether it’s hearing loss or other issues, tinnitus is associated with a variety of health problems.
For example, when it comes to high blood pressure, what is happening is less blood flows into the ear capillaries – resulting in a ringing noise.
As for diabetes, studies show that about half of those with this disease also suffer from tinnitus.
Interestingly, age, gender and hearing loss don’t affect the findings.
With diabetes, the main issue is the nerve damage you experience with this disease.
This nerve damage not only causes numbness and pain in your legs and other extremities.
It also damages the sensitive nerves in your ears and the neuropathways that connect your ear to your brain.
Tinnitus is also a common symptom of Meniere’s Disease – a disorder of the inner ear that is caused by abnormal fluid pressure.
Musculoskeletal factors – like jaw clenching, teeth grinding, and joint disorders like TMJ – sometimes make tinnitus more noticeable because of the jaw bone’s close proximity to the nerve endings of the middle ear.
In other cases, tinnitus is caused by something as simple as a sinus infection.
Ridding yourself of the ringing noise becomes as easy as clearing up your nasal congestion.
Once your physician or tinnitus specialist knows your entire medical history, they can start to pinpoint the cause of your tinnitus and, from there, help you relieve it by treating your underlying issue.
4. Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT)
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) involves training your auditory system to accept tinnitus sounds as normal instead of disruptive.
The goal of this treatment is to make the ringing sounds less noticeable and bothersome, to the point that patients learn to live with the noise.
It involves individual counseling and therapy sessions with a medical professional and the insertion in the ear of a sound generator that matches the pitch and volume of tinnitus sounds.
Multiple studies show that most tinnitus patients react well to TRT.
5. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Rather than lessening the sound of tinnitus, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) instead teaches patients to live with their condition.
Each session involves working with a professional therapist or counselor where patients keep a journal and perform activities that change their negative thoughts about tinnitus.
This treatment usually lasts for two to six months, depending on the severity of the symptoms.
Alternative Relief Strategies
Making simple changes to your daily life and home environment can make it a lot easier to deal with tinnitus.
Here are six strategies that you can easily work into your everyday routine to help manage and cope with tinnitus.
1. Avoid Exposure To Loud Sounds
Many things can make tinnitus worse.
The worst offender being loud noises.
Over time, exposure to loud noise damages the sensory hair cells in the inner ear and prevents the ear from effectively transmitting sound to the brain.
When listening to music, turn the volume down a notch, especially when you’re wearing headphones.
If you work in an industry where you regularly use loud machinery or firearms, remember to always use hearing protection devices like earplugs.
2. Play Soothing Background Music Or Ambient Sounds
Tinnitus sounds are more pronounced at night when there is less external noise.
To help you fall asleep, you can make your own white noise to drown out tinnitus sounds by setting the radio at a low volume or even turning your electric fan up a notch.
Lack the budget for an expensive sound machine?
You can download low-level ambient music and play it on your laptop, smartphone or tablet instead and play it while you fall asleep.
3. Take Care Of Your Mental Health
Stress and anxiety play a huge role in triggering tinnitus symptoms.
To lessen these symptoms, find time to relax every day and improve your mood.
It might surprise you, but studies show that yoga, meditation, or even taking a walk quickly and easily reduces stress.
4. Limit Alcohol And Caffeinated Drinks
Some tinnitus patients report that certain food and drinks can make symptoms worse.
Two of the biggest culprits are alcohol and caffeine.
The reason why is that both alcohol and caffeine increase the force of blood flow by dilating your blood vessels, particularly in your inner ear.
Limiting your alcohol intake could make a big difference to get the ringing in your ears under control.
As for caffeine, if you are willing to go without your morning coffee for a little while to see if it’s a trigger for you, there are some painless ways to cut back on your caffeine intake.
There are also healthy alternatives to coffee that you can try.
5. Avoid Medications That Trigger Tinnitus
There are over 600 prescription and over-the-counter medications that are known to trigger or worsen tinnitus.
Some of the most common drugs that cause or worsen tinnitus are:
- Pain relievers, including aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- Anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication
- Several common antibiotics
- Acne treatment
- Blood pressure medication
Check out this guide for an in-depth list of medications that can cause (and worsen) tinnitus.
6. Massage And Stretching
Many people have found significant improvement in their tinnitus by massaging and stretching their neck and jaw muscles.
If you suffer from TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder, massaging your neck and jaw muscles could improve your tinnitus.
These massages and stretches also help if you spend a lot of time hunched over your desk or gaming.
Breakthroughs are being made every day in the search for a tinnitus cure.
In fact, it seems not far-fetched to estimate that a cure is on the horizon.
Until we have a full-on cure, the above professional treatments, as well as the alternative relief strategies, have been proven to bring tinnitus relief to many sufferers.