Tinnitus is a common symptom reported by
about 17% of the general population (44 million people in the USA). Tinnitus
may be described as a ringing, roaring, hissing, buzzing, or clicking sound
‘in the ear’ or ‘in the head.’ The perception of these sounds is very real
but not related to any external sound source. Therefore, tinnitus can be
classified as a phantom auditory perception.
Tinnitus may be pronounced /tinni’tus/ or /tinn i tus/. Varying opinions not
only involve the pronunciation of the term but also the etiology of tinnitus
and appropriate treatment of tinnitus.
At the Atlanta Ear Clinic, a multidisciplinary team composed of a
neurotologist, audiologist, and occupational therapist address the treatment
of tinnitus. Treatment may include electrical stimulation, biofeedback,
medication, hearing aids, and sound habituation therapy. Other modalities
for tinnitus include education of ear health and protection, infrared
photo-energy treatment, cervical traction, counseling, and stress
management. Each treatment plan is individually planned and monitored by the
Electrical stimulation involves treating the outside of the ear with a small
electric current. Each treatment takes ½ hour per ear and 6 initial
treatments are recommended. Of 500 tinnitus patients treated with electrical
stimulation at our clinic, tinnitus was reduced in one half of the patients.
Biofeedback training can be used in conjunction with electrical stimulation.
Biofeedback involves teaching the person with tinnitus to exert conscious
control over the areas of the body which were thought to be outside of the
control of the conscious mind. Instruments are used to sense and amplify
impulses coming from body parts one wishes to alter. This information can be
used by the person to modify and alter processes associated with tinnitus by
relaxing muscles in the head and neck and increasing blood flow.