Those who suffer with tinnitus will tell you that life can be a living nightmare as a result of the persistent ringing, buzzing, hissing, whooshing or whistling in your ears.
Tinnitus affects 6 million people, in the UK alone. One of them is Chris Martin, the frontman for the hugely successful rock band, Coldplay. In fact, it is a common condition found among musicians because they are exposed to loud music for prolonged periods of time.
However, apart from constant exposure to loud music, the overuse of mobile phones and MP3 players (like iPods), wax build-up in the ears, blood vessel disorders and even prescription drugs have all been linked to tinnitus.
The power of 5
If tinnitus is caused by a specific problem – like loud music – addressing the problem can often improve the condition. But since many cases of tinnitus have no obvious cause, and because medicine has little to offer (there are no drugs or surgical treatments available), sufferers are often told to simply learn to live with it.
Fortunately, alternative medicine offers far more hope. Here are five treatment options that may be able to stop the agonising noise in your ears:
- Sound Therapy: Sound Therapy has three goals: to provide a sense of relief (soothing sounds), distract the sufferer from their tinnitus with background noises (passive distraction), or distracting them with interesting noises (active distraction). An example of Sound Therapy would be the use of bedside sound generators producing soothing music or background noises that can potentially improve quality of sleep for sufferers.
- Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT): This therapy combines Sound Therapy and educational counselling, which aim to retrain the brain to ignore the sounds of tinnitus. In one study, participants reported a 78 per cent improvement in their tinnitus after being given TRT. Other studies have suggested that TRT is more effective in relieving the symptoms of tinnitus, than Sound Therapy alone.
- Biofeedback: This technique involves electrical sensors that provide real-time information (feedback) about your body, allowing you to make subtle changes until you get the desired outcome. In one study of 130 tinnitus patients, those who received 12 sessions of Biofeedback were less affected by their tinnitus and felt a greater sense of control of their condition, compared with those who received no treatment.
- Qigong: Tinnitus is often related to stress, which is why relaxation techniques – like meditation – have proven to be beneficial. Qigong – a traditional Chinese movement practice – combines slow, gentle movements with mediation and breath regulation. In one study, 80 tinnitus sufferers showed a dramatic reduction in the severity of their symptoms after participating in regular Qigong sessions. The effects lasted for at least three months after stopping the practice.
- Cuppa Joe: In the past, there’s been some concern that regular coffee consumption may exacerbate tinnitus symptoms. However, a recent study found that higher caffeine intake may have a protective benefit against tinnitus.
In the study, participants who drank three to four cups of coffee a day were 15 per cent less likely to develop the condition. Those who drank only up to two cups of coffee a day were 20 per cent less at risk.
Finally, an Italian study found that sufferers who listened to Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major for an hour every day over a period of 30 days, saw significant improvements in the intensity of their symptoms. Needless to say, this also had a knock-on effect on their quality of life.
So the next time the ringing, buzzing, hissing, whooshing or whistling in your ears gets the better of you, grab a cup of coffee and switch on the Mozart.
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Disclaimer: Bear in mind the material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only. We are not addressing anyone’s personal situation. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.
Occup EnvironMed, dio:10.1136/oemed-2014-102172