About Tinnitus

Treatment for tinnitus

Tinnitus or chronic ringing in your ears is not an uncommon condition.  However, some people however suffer from severe forms of this condition which can lead to anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance, and even problems with day-to-day functioning. Unfortunately, this condition is difficult to treat with very few treatment options available.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has been FDA approved for the treatment of depression for over 10 years. This treatment which modifies brain activity in the frontal region can be modified to impact the auditory cortex which is overactive in patients that are suffering from tinnitus. The reference below summarizes the results of 22 TMS therapy studies for tinnitus and concludes that TMS is an effective treatment for this condition. Overall the studies suggest 20 – 60% of patients receiving TMS will have some improvement, and that the benefits may be long-lasting.

Non-invasive neuromodulation for tinnitus: A meta-analysis and modeling studies , Brain Stimulation
Volume 14, Issue 1,P113-128, Jan 01,2021. Open Access Published : Nov 30,2020

What is tinnitus ?

Tinnitus is not a disease but rather a symptom of an underlying problem in the neural circuits that serve hearing. It’s actually quite common and is not usually indicative of a serious medical condition. However, some people suffer with severe tinnitus that can be extremely disrupting to their functioning  and quality of life.

Those suffering with tinnitus often hear a buzzing or ringing in their ear on one or both sides. Sometimes it is described as a clicking, hissing or humming . These are phantom noises that can vary in pitch from a low rumble to a high shriek .The symptoms may be present continually or intermittently.

What other symptoms could be related to tinnitus ?

If tinnitus is severe and persistent, it can profoundly affect functioning and quality of life. The following symptoms can be associated with severe tinnitus:

  • stress
  • insomnia
  • focus and concentration difficulty
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • fatigue

What are the causes of tinnitus ?

Many health conditions can cause or contribute to tinnitus . Unfortunately, in many cases an exact cause is never discovered.

Some of the conditions which may contribute include:

  • exposure to loud noises
  • age-related hearing loss
  • Ear wax obstruction
  • reactions to medications

How does TMS therapy help symptoms of tinnitus ?

Tinnitus is thought to originate with an overactivity of nerve cells in the auditory cortex leading to the ringing sound. TMS therapy uses electromagnetic pulses to reliably and effectively slow down nerve cell activity when  directed appropriately. Toning down or reducing this hyperactivity of the auditory cortex can have a significant effect on the symptoms of tinnitus as the brain can be retrained. The ability of the brain to modify connections and change brain activity is known as neuroplasticity.

What are the treatments like?

Each treatment last about 30 minutes. During treatment, a coil is positioned above the ear in a place on the scalp that corresponds to the auditory cortex . Magnetic pulses are generated by the coil once per second.  Patients are awake and alert and able to make conversation with the staff or watch TV while undergoing treatment. Patients are able to drive or resume other activity immediately after treatment. The course of treatment is usually 10 treatments over a period of two weeks.

Does insurance pay for these treatments ?

At the present time, TMS is FDA cleared for treating depression, OCD and smoking cessation but not tinnitus. Treatment for tinnitus would represent an off-label application of TMS and may not be approved by your insurance company.

How can I learn more ?

A free consultation with Dr Hayden or Hannah Nolte PMHNP is available to help you investigate TMS therapy and find out if you are a good candidate for this treatment . Payment and financial issues can also be explored during this visit.