Experimental, controversial, and futuristic treatments for chronic tinnitus

Robert L. Folmer, Sarah M. Theodoroff, William Hal Martin, Yongbing Shi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

16 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Because chronic tinnitus is a condition that negatively impacts the quality of life of millions of people worldwide, a safe and effective treatment for tinnitus has been sought for millennia. However, effective treatments for tinnitus are greatly outnumbered by ineffective strategies, medications, devices, and surgeries that continue to be developed and promoted for the condition. Purpose: This article describes and critiques experimental, controversial, and potential treatments for chronic tinnitus. The purpose of this review is to provide information that should help patients and clinicians to select tinnitus treatment and management strategies most likely to be effective for each set of symptoms and circumstances. Research Design: PubMed and MEDLINE databases (National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine) were searched for the term tinnitus in articles published from 1940 to 2012. Other historical documents and publications were also reviewed as needed for particular topics. Study Sample: Studies included in this review were selected to represent a sampling of treatment methodologies that have been used for tinnitus. Data Collection and Analysis: Due to the heterogeneity of the studies reviewed, it was not appropriate to perform a meta-analysis. A selective review of the literature was conducted to summarize and critique published research results. Results: Most invasive treatments for tinnitus should be avoided because (1) at best, there is scant evidence that any of these treatments is effective, and (2) the risk to patients for most invasive procedures is much greater than the risk posed by the tinnitus perception. Effective and noninvasive treatments for tinnitus include acoustic therapy (which includes hearing aids and other types of environmental sound enrichment); cognitive-behavioral therapy; psychological counseling; hypnosis; biofeedback; and relaxation training. Over-the-counter or prescription medications may be used as needed to facilitate sleep and to reduce anxiety, depression, or obsessivecompulsiveness. Conclusions: Patients and clinicians should be especially cautious when considering invasive (and potentially harmful) treatments for tinnitus, which is a non-life-threatening symptom. Unless welldesigned clinical trials verify that a tinnitus therapy demonstrates effectiveness above and beyond the placebo effect, consumers should be wary of medications, devices, or procedures promoted as a "cure." Although a true cure for tinnitus has not yet been found, effective and noninvasive tinnitus management strategies are available now. If progress is made to medically (or genetically) treat sensorineural hearing loss in humans, this breakthrough should also help to simultaneously reduce the perception of tinnitus for many patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)106-125
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Audiology
Volume25
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2014

Keywords

  • Auditory rehabilitation
  • Management
  • Therapy
  • Tinnitus
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Speech and Hearing

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