For people with tinnitus, everyday life can be challenging to navigate. The condition can cause a range of difficulties, including decreased concentration, trouble sleeping, and, in some cases, hearing loss. There are various ways to help alleviate the symptoms of tinnitus, but many of these are not widely known.
Each treatment plan will depend on the type of tinnitus present in your ear.1 Here, we take a look at some of the ways to manage your tinnitus symptoms.
What are the therapy treatments for tinnitus?
Certain types of tinnitus are reversible through the treatment of the underlying causes, and your treatment will depend on what has initially caused the tinnitus. If this is as simple as a build-up of earwax, for example, all that will be needed is the removal of excess earwax by a healthcare professional – which we can do in the majority of our Specsavers Stores
However, there are certain types of tinnitus which will need a more specific treatment plan, and it’s important to understand which one will be best suited to your case.
Tinnitus sound therapy
Sound therapy can be used to change your perception of tinnitus. In general, sound therapies will use an external source of noise to distract from or mask the tinnitus sounds. Some therapies also use habituation techniques, which make your brain reclassify your tinnitus as a sound that it doesn’t pay attention to. The deliberate use of sound to reduce awareness or the distress associated with tinnitus can also be called sound enrichment.3
The most well-known type of sound therapy for tinnitus is the masking or distracting of tinnitus sounds made by a tinnitus hearing aid. The hearing aid will either amplify ambient sounds or create low-level sounds which make your tinnitus less noticeable. You don’t necessarily need a hearing aid though, radios, computers, and TVs are also very useful in providing background noises that make tinnitus less noticeable.
By distracting a person from tinnitus, hearing aids and sound therapies improve the quality of sleep and concentration. If you have a hearing loss alongside having tinnitus then hearing aids can also amplify selective sounds such as a speaker’s voice during a conversation and sounds of TV and radio, making socialising and everyday activities more manageable.
Do behavioural therapies work for tinnitus?
There are two main types of behavioural therapies currently used to treat tinnitus: tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). They can be useful in treating tinnitus by reframing the way your brain reacts to tinnitus, but this will depend on the type of tinnitus present in your ear.
Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT)
Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) reprograms the way your subconscious processes tinnitus. It teaches the brain to ignore the internal sound stimuli unless you purposely focus on them. Experts at a tinnitus centre administer the TRT.
There are different stages to tinnitus retraining therapy: initial counselling, sound therapy and psychological therapy. The initial evaluation explores your daily life and the type of tinnitus you have. The sound therapy uses a device to generate background noise to help you get used to the noises. Finally, psychological therapy teaches you how to ignore tinnitus through stress management and relaxation exercises.
The goal is to eliminate the anxiety that comes with tinnitus. TRT can work with any tinnitus, but often requires a long-term commitment.2 NHS-funded tinnitus retraining therapy may be for those people with severe or persistent tinnitus.4 Find out more here.
Cognitive behavioural therapy
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) changes the way a person thinks about and reacts to tinnitus and encourages you to stop viewing tinnitus as an annoying sound.
For people who have tinnitus, negative automatic thoughts come to their minds whenever they hear the sounds of their tinnitus. CBT for tinnitus works by changing the automatic thoughts that happen every time that tinnitus occurs. Again, CBT can work with any type of tinnitus, but also requires a time commitment.
Can I take medication for tinnitus?
Some drugs have also been effective in treating tinnitus. Again, these treatments will depend on the underlying cause of tinnitus in the ear. However, medications are a treatment option that your audiologist will go through with you.
What’s the best tinnitus treatment for me?
Different therapies have different pros and cons. Hearing aids and sound therapies are the fastest and most convenient solutions. TRT and CBT work with any tinnitus, but they require time and long-term commitment. While there are many medications for tinnitus, each of them is usually effective for specific types of tinnitus and can have many side effects.
If you think you have tinnitus and a hearing loss, you can book a hearing appointment with one of Specsavers’ audiologists. If you think you have tinnitus but don’t feel like you have a hearing loss you can contact the British Tinnitus Association for more information on support. If your tinnitus is pulsatile or unilateral (in one ear only), you should speak to your GP.
To find out more information on the different types and causes of tinnitus, as well as advice on treatments, visit our dedicated tinnitus resource here.
1. Dinces E. (2019), Treatment of tinnitus [online]. Available at: https://www.uptodate.com/contents/treatment-of-tinnitus?search=Tinnitus&source=search_result&selectedTitle=2~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=2 [accessed 11/05/21]
2. Bauer CA, Berry JL, Brozoski TJ. The effect of tinnitus retraining therapy on chronic tinnitus: A controlled trial. Laryngoscope Investig Otolaryngol. 2017;2(4):166-177. doi:10.1002/lio2.76
3. British Tinnitus Association (2019), Sound Therapy [online]. Available at: https://www.tinnitus.org.uk/sound-therapy [accessed 11/05/21]
4. NHS (2020), Tinnitus [online]. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/tinnitus/ [accessed 11/05/21]