Tinnitus, the word a Latin derivate that means “to ring or tinkle,” is experienced as a perception of sound that is unrelated to an external cause. Most often tinnitus is associated with the term “ringing in the ears,” although it can be experienced as hissing, swooshing, buzzing, clicking, and even as musical notes. Tinnitus can be a transient or temporary phenomenon that resolves in time or a chronic condition.
There are two types of tinnitus:
Subjective tinnitus refers to the sounds perceived inside the individual’s ears or head, not heard by anyone else. It is not a disease, but a symptom of an underlying condition such as hearing loss or damage to the inner ear.
Objective tinnitus refers to head or ear sounds that can be heard by others in addition to the patient. This very rare type of tinnitus can be the result of internal functions involving the patient’s blood flow or musculo-skeletal movement.
Causes of Tinnitus
There is evidence that tinnitus stems from the sensory loss of certain sound frequencies, which changes the way the brain processes sound. There are a variety of possible causes for this damage that occurs in the tiny sensory hair cells in the cochlea of the inner ear. These may include:
- The aging process
- Frequent exposure to excessively loud sounds
- Certain medications, such as antibiotics, diuretics, aspirin, and ibuprofen
- Ear infections
- Head and neck injuries
- Emotional stress
- Traumatic brain injury
- Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ)
- Middle ear problems
- Foreign object lodged in ear
- Cardiovascular disease
TMS Treatment for Tinnitus
When no connection to a medical condition has been diagnosed to explain the tinnitus symptoms, someone suffering from it may be frustrated in learning there are few options available to manage it. In recent years, however, TMS has been shown to be helpful in relieving tinnitus symptoms and continues to be studied.
A study out of Loyola University Chicago that commenced in 2012 is currently studying TMS for treating depressed patients with tinnitus. It had been discovered that approximately 12% of individuals who suffer from persistent tinnitus also suffer from depression and/or anxiety at a rate that is three times the general population. They aim to quantify how many of the depressed individuals with co-occurring tinnitus experienced relief after TMS was used.
Another study, funded by the Veterans Affairs Rehabilitation Research and Development Service was completed in 2015. With 64 study participants, this double-blind, randomize, placebo-controlled study utilized the Tinnitus Functional Index (TFI) to identify whether the TMS was effective in reducing symptoms.
For this study, TMS used magnetic pulses that were delivered at a rate of one pulse per second through a coil positioned above the ear, targeting the auditory cortex in the brain. After receiving a total of 2,000 pulses over ten consecutive treatment sessions, the follow-up TFI questionnaire helped researchers determine what level of symptom severity responded best to the TMS intervention. This study and similar studies have shown that the more severe tinnitus cases respond best to TMS therapy for helping alleviate symptoms.
How TMS Helps Relieve Symptoms of Tinnitus
Because the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex of the brain is associated with the tinnitus distress network and helps to process annoying sounds, even one session of TMS can produce temporary relief, according to a study published in a 2013 issue of Elsevier. When comparing results of TMS being applied on the right versus the left side of the brain, it was clear that the left prefrontal cortex application of TMS was more effective in reducing tinnitus symptoms.
As new clinical trials continue to provide more data, the use of TMS for treating tinnitus offers hope for millions who suffer from the condition. Patients with major depressive disorder and co-occurring tinnitus may experience relief from both disorders.
Anew Era TMS is a leading TMS provider serving Southern California that treats individuals suffering from major depress disorder and those with co-occurring tinnitus, PTSD, anxiety, substance use disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Contact Anew Era TMS at (888) 503-1549 for more information about how TMS can help provide relief for tinnitus.