Tinnitus or ringing in ears is a condition in which a person hears sounds like ringing, whistling, buzzing, chirping or hissing without the presence of an actual source of these sounds (external stimuli). The sound may be soft or loud and of a high or low pitch. Millions of people in the world suffer from this condition. Tinnitus can occur due to various reasons that include excessive use of earphones, build-up of earwax, ear infections, thyroid problems and even cardiovascular diseases.
While short term tinnitus, caused by a loud concert for example, often goes away on its own, currently, there is no clinically recommended treatment or drug for chronic tinnitus. Recently though, a group of researchers at the University of Minnesota have claimed that sound and electrical stimulation of the tongue can significantly reduce tinnitus. The researchers have developed a small handheld device that includes Bluetooth headphones and a tiny piece containing 32 electrodes that can be put on the tip of the tongue. The device is easy to use and optimized as per the patient’s hearing profile and sensitivity level for tongue stimulation.
As per the study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the method is safe and effective and provides sustained benefits even a year after the treatment. About 86% of the study participants that took the whole treatment properly reported significant relief from their symptoms within 12 weeks.
The company has registered the device by the name Lenire and launched it last year.
However, until it is available worldwide, you can try the following treatments and remedies to manage ringing in ears:
- Sound cancelling devices
Sound cancelling headphones or earplugs use white noise or nature sounds to drown out the ringing sound in your ears. These sounds can be adjusted so they can either totally mask your tinnitus or be just a bit louder than the ringing sound in your ear. You may also want to invest in headphones or devices to avoid strong external noises like drills or hedge trimmers.
- Yoga and meditation
Chronic tinnitus can increase stress, lead to anxiety and also affect your concentration. According to the British Tinnitus Association, meditation and yoga can help you deal with this stress and improve your focus. Asanas like the camel pose (ushtrasana), cobra pose (bhujangasana) and bridge pose (setu bandhasana) may not only help with your focus but also improve your energy. You can also take a relaxing bath to help reduce stress.
- Avoid ear wax buildup
If your tinnitus is caused due to the build-up of ear wax, it is best to clean your ears and maintain ear hygiene. Do not put cotton buds or matchsticks in your ears as it can do more damage than good. Instead, you can put a drop or two of olive oil once a week to avoid the buildup of wax in your ear.
- Avoid triggers
Certain medications like aspirin, antimalarial drugs and tricyclic antidepressants can worsen tinnitus. Smoking, alcohol, and salt have also been reported to be tinnitus triggers. If you have chronic tinnitus, it is best to notice if anything triggers your condition or worsens it and then avoid those triggers to help manage the condition.
- Cochlear implants: Cochlear implants are tiny devices that are implanted into a person’s ear to help restore hearing. These devices are mostly used to treat tinnitus associated with severe hearing loss. According to the National Institute of Health, US, cochlear implants bypass the damaged portion of the ear and send auditory signals to the brain, helping the person hear better. Since they bring in outer sounds, these implants drown out tinnitus too.