Tinnitus can result when the intricate human hearing system malfunctions. There are fortunately some tinnitus treatment options that can help quiet the dysfunction. Most tinnitus treatment options are non-invasive, and require that you work with a licensed hearing specialist for the best results.
How Does Tinnitus Develop?
Tinnitus most often develops as a side-effect of hearing loss. Hearing loss is associated with the inner ear and hearing nerve becoming underactive. At the same time, the brain’s primary hearing center (cochlear nucleus) becomes overactive as it’s not receiving the amount of stimulation that it’s used to. The overactivity in the brain’s primary hearing center is perceived as the ringing in the ears known as tinnitus.
Hearing Aids as a Tinnitus Treatment
Tinnitus treatment from an ear doctor starts with helping the ear to function properly again. Tinnitus can be diminished or eliminated by improving the under-activity coming from the ear. The primary option of hearing aids can work to help quiet tinnitus.
The tinnitus that is due to over-activity in the brain’s primary hearing center. The nerves of the brain communicate with each other by using chemicals known as neurotransmitters. Some of these chemicals increase nerve activity, while other chemicals decrease nerve activity.
Tinnitus can therefore be lessened by increasing the neurochemicals that reduce nerve activity. Decreasing nerve activity in the brain’s hearings centers will help quiet tinnitus. Treating tinnitus therefore requires taking medications that elevate the neurotransmitters needed to reduce brain nerve activity. Some medications used to treat tinnitus include gabapentin and clonazepam.
Tinnitus Treatment Through Decreasing Brain Over-Activity
Hearing aids help tinnitus sufferers by increasing the activity reaching the first hearing center of the brain. This helps to cut down on the over-activity of the brain’s first hearing center. Studies have shown that by using two hearing aids (one in each ear), over 65% of people report improvements in their tinnitus condition.
Muscle Tension and Arthritis Treatments for Tinnitus
Part of the human hearing system originates from the muscles, tendons, and joints in the head and neck region. The nerves from the head and neck region go to the brain and help it perceive sound. Poor functioning in this part of the body’s hearing system can be another major cause of tinnitus.
Jaw and neck strain can also create tender and hard areas in these muscles. These tender focal areas in your head and neck muscles (called trigger points) can also end up causing a person tinnitus. The development of trigger points could be due to injury, prolonged stress, and working too many hours.
Treatment of trigger points can help quiet tinnitus. Hardened trigger points can be treated using acupuncture needles. The needles are directed toward trigger points within the muscles themselves, a process known as dry needling of trigger points. If the hearing system dysfunction is thought to involve the jaw muscles, then a dentist will need to be consulted. Dentists may treat the bite alignment by using a bite guard.
Tinnitus can also be caused by arthritis involving the joints between the bones of the spine. The medical name for these joints is “facet joints.” Arthritic facet joints result in a condition called facet arthropathy. A procedure known as facet blocks is the primary treatment option for facet arthropathy. With improvement in the facet joints, it’s hoped that patients can have their tinnitus quieted.
Tinnitus treatment will vary depending upon what the primary cause is believed to be. If the primary cause is related to hearing loss, then the primary means of treatment will be hearing aids. If the tinnitus is primarily related to dysfunction of the head and neck muscles, then the primary treatment will be dry needling of trigger points. Further probing may reveal jaw dysfunction (which would require dental therapy) or arthritis in the spine (treated with facet blocks). And some patients may be suited to trying medications that can help quiet the overactive sections of the brain.