Tinnitus is the perception of sound when no external sound source is present. Tinnitus can take on any number of characteristics and is usually a sound that only you can hear. You can experience tinnitus that varies from soft to loud and from low to high pitch. Individuals describe their tinnitus in a number of ways, including a buzzing, clicking, ringing, white noise, and/or roaring sound. Although these descriptions are typical, there are no specific rules about how tinnitus is perceived. Each person’s experience can be different.
According to the American Tinnitus Association (ATA), tinnitus is one of the most common health conditions in the United States, affecting approximately 45 million Americans to some degree. An estimated 20 million have symptoms severe enough that they seek medical attention, and approximately 2 million cannot function “normally” on a day-to-day basis.
Because tinnitus affects so many people, there are a number of unscrupulous companies that claim to “cure” tinnitus. Unfortunately, that’s just not true—there is NO CURE FOR TINNITUS, and if you read an ad that claims to do so, don’t fall for it.
One of the most common claims is that a pill, often in the form of a dietary supplement, can cure tinnitus. These supplements are often promoted as “all natural,” but natural doesn’t mean safe or good, and they can’t cure for tinnitus.
According to an article published in Tinnitus Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any dietary supplements for tinnitus treatment. Ginkgo biloba is the most studied dietary supplement in tinnitus treatment. It is believed to improve tinnitus by increasing inner ear and cerebral blood circulation and by protecting against free radicals. Several clinical trials have been performed on tinnitus patients, but the results are conflicting, with some showing positive effects and others showing no effect. People with seizures (as in epilepsy) or bleeding disorders should not use ginkgo.
Other supplements that have been studied as tinnitus treatments are zinc, B-12, melatonin, flavonoids, and magnesium.
But, research is clear in showing that dietary supplements are ineffective for reducing the perception of tinnitus. This is why the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery Foundation’s Clinical Practice Guideline: Tinnitus states that clinicians should not recommend Ginkgo biloba, melatonin, zinc, or other dietary supplements for treating patients with persistent bothersome tinnitus.
While there isn’t a “magic” pill to cure tinnitus, there are effective tinnitus management options.
For many patients with tinnitus, the latest digital hearing aids may be particularly useful in managing tinnitus. Some hearing aids include supplemental sound generator functionality (white noise or other sounds, such as chimes, played directly into the ear) that helps reduce the perception of tinnitus.
This makes it more difficult to consciously perceive tinnitus and helps the brain focus on outside, ambient noises. The impact of hearing aids is particularly strong for patients who have hearing loss in the same frequency range as their tinnitus.
Hearing aids also help by augmenting the external volume of activities such as a conversation, watching television or talking on the phone, above the perceived volume of tinnitus. As a result, these individuals may feel less personal frustration and social isolation.
In some cases, hearing aids work best as part of a structured tinnitus management plan.
In other cases, an alternative option may be recommended. Associated Audiologists offers the latest FDA-cleared tools for tinnitus management.
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