A good number of people in the world hear sounds they shouldn’t be hearing. No, it’s nothing close to the supernatural. These people hear ringing or random sounds when there’s nothing that’s causing the noise around them.
This condition is called “Tinnitus” and it has a lot of causes. It could be due to serious issues such as brain damage and infection in the ear or could be as simple as a piece of dirt or ear wax lodged in your eardrum.
Though the causes can be identified, the mechanics behind Tinnitus is yet to be fully understood. There are cases where even if they managed to deal with the cause, the patient still hears random noises. This makes Tinnitus a symptom, rather than a condition on its own. Like a fever, you can treat it, but if you don’t deal with the actual problem, it will just keep coming back.
The most common cause of tinnitus is constant exposure to loud sound. Examples of these are constant exposure to construction noises or explosions. Construction workers and people who serve the military may be at risk of this. The cure is often to decrease the person’s exposure to loud noises. But, it doesn’t work for some people. Some people live with tinnitus for years. This can cause depression, anxiety, and concentration issues all their life.
Advancement in medical science have found a way to treat patients with long-term tinnitus. This process is through the simple use of electromagnets. The procedure is called “Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.”
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Treatment for Tinnitus: How does it work?
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or TMS, can be described as using a pair of electromagnets to stimulate certain parts of your brain using electromagnetism. It sounds simple, but that’s what makes it amazing. This procedure has little side-effects and shows direct results in treating Tinnitus.
During TMS therapy, the patient is sat comfortably in a chair and an operator will aim a number 8 shaped electromagnet an inch or two above the scalp. A machine connected to the electromagnet will deliver precise amounts of electricity. This causes the magnets to deliver pulses of electromagnetism.
The first step is to get you a physical and psychological exam. This is to ensure that you won’t have complications during the procedure and to understand your depression. When the physical exam checks out and the psychological evaluation is complete, you’ll be taken to the TMS clinic.
During the process, they will first “map out” the areas of your brain by activating the coil on certain areas of your head. You may feel a slight ticking in your scalp and your muscles may flinch, which is perfectly normal. When the doctor or operator has determined the right position, the machine will continue to send pulses to that specific part of the brain. I some cases, you may not feel any tapping or clicking sounds, but rest assured that the machine is doing its job.
After about 30-60 minutes of deep brain stimulation, the procedure ends for the day. Patients are highly encouraged to complete the entire procedure, lasting about 4-6 weeks to ensure that you get the best results.
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.