Tinnitus is a condition where a person hears noises in their ears or in their head without any external sources. Sometimes it’s buzzing sounds, ringing, or in some severe cases, deafening explosions. This is not a disease but a symptom of either ear damage or brain damage. It can be caused by many diseases. This can range from tumors, damage to the delicate bones of the ear, or constant exposure to loud sounds.
Though there are extensive studies about the cause and mechanisms behind tinnitus, the condition is still not fully understood. The sounds tinnitus patients hear is not something their minds made up, but a “mimicry” of signals that make the brain register it as a sound. From here we know that both the ear and the brain are affected when we encounter tinnitus, but how is it treated?
One of the ways it is solved is to treat the source. It could be an injury, an infection, or a tumor that must be removed. In some cases, unfortunately, even if the source of tinnitus is treated, the symptom remains. To treat the symptom, there’s Cognitive Behavior Therapy. This procedure “trains” you to focus your mind away from the noise. Another method is Therapeutic Noise Generation where you’re subjected to a mix of sounds. This is to train your brain into focusing on the external noise rather than the internal sounds.
Advances in Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Treatment is also showing success in treating Tinnitus. So, what is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation?
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
To put simply, an electromagnet is placed on your head. This is connected to a machine that pulses magnetic waves. It also controls the frequency of electromagnetism to pass through your brain with precision. The electromagnetic pulses activate certain brain cells, essentially “massaging” the brain into working in a specific way. In general, the effect focuses on restoring normal brain function, making parts that don’t work right, work properly.
The process is harmless, with most of the side-effects attributed to motion sickness and minor deafness. It has shown remarkable results in treating severe depression, migraines, and shows potential in treating Asperger’s syndrome. So far, the Food and Drug Administration has approved using TMS to treat depression. The successes of clinical trials also suggest that more TMS treatments will be approved soon.
TMS for Tinnitus
According to clinical studies and trials, TMS offers significant relief to people suffering from tinnitus for at least a year. The treatment allowed continuous relief for up to six months. Some of these patients were people who have not found any other treatment that worked for their condition for more than 20 years. With TMS, they suddenly found themselves temporarily free of the noise. There’s not yet conclusive data about permanent treatment, but the fact that it works for patients who have tried all other conventional methods means further development of TMS as a tinnitus treatment is promising.
TMS is not a new. It has been in practice since the early 1990s, but the implications and effects are surprising for conditions beyond only using TMS to treat mental illness. It will only get better and it’s only a matter of time.