There’s been a strong response to a recent post about a McMaster University study that pointed towards an alarming increase in the cases of tinnitus–that horrible, never-goes-away ringing in the ears–caused by damage to the auditory nerves. The researchers conclude that loud music pumped directly into the skull via earbuds and headphones is the cause and if awareness of the issue doesn’t increase, we’ll end up with a generation of people who are always yelling “WHAT DO YOU SAY?”
If you find your ears ringing constantly with that high-pitched EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE that never goes away, there are treatment options. This comes come Ryan Osborn, a hearing specialist working in Burlington and Hamilton. He wants us to know about a treatment program developed in concert with the folks at McMaster.
Tinnitus is the side effect of brain plasticity. The brain is recognizing a problem (however significant/insignificant) usually somewhere in the auditory process (cochlea, VIII nerve, auditory cortex) and is attempting to compensate for that problem. In many cases, it’s due to some form of hearing impairment, whether from old age or noise-induced, but it can also affect those with normal hearing thresholds. When the brain compensates for the problem, it tends to overstimulate and this causes tinnitus.
The treatment is simple. Come into a hearing clinic that offers ‘Sound Options’ tinnitus therapy. Have a hearing test. Put on a pair of headphones and go through a collection of samples of different noises and try and find a close match to what your tinnitus sounds like. This information then gets forwarded to the Sound Options team. They create a combination of tones customized for what your hearing test and tinnitus match results yield. These tones have been proven to ‘trick’ the brain into dismissing the problem it’s trying to solve. These tones are then embedded into a playlist of about 5 hours of classical music. Listen to this music for an average of 2 hours per day and over time ,the tinnitus will decrease in severity.
Before I go on, I want to be perfectly transparent that this treatment program is NOT mine. I was not involved in the research, the clinical trials, or the creation. All of this was done by a team at McMaster University and after the clinical trials, a Dr. Michael Chrostowski (PhD in Neuroscience) founded the company ‘Sound Options’. Dr. Chrostowski has then offered this program to certain hearing clinics to act as a third party and obviously be compensated for obtaining the results they need.
As far as the procedure for listening to this music, it’s quite flexible. The recommended 2 hours can be broken up into many different time intervals to work with the patient’s daily schedule. It does not have to be administered through any special ear buds or devices. A car stereo, an mp3 player, a kitchen radio, anything will do, just as long as the music is audible. Usually, there are about 18-23 tracks, which do NOT have to be listened to in any kind of order. If you only like track 18 and it happens to be Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (second movement) then you can listen to it on repeat if you’d like (insert joke about A Clockwork Orange here).
As a hearing health care professional I have become all too accustomed with the dark side of tinnitus. There have been many programs/treatments/medications that have been advertised over the years, but most are exposed rather quickly as anecdotal or just plain fraudelent.
This treatment program is the first to get its foot in the door in a lot of difficult circles to break through. It’s being published and discussed in many respected audiological organizations.
I hope I didn’t bombard you with too much information. If there’s anything else you want to know please don’t hesitate to email or call.
If you happen to post anything or are going to discuss it on the air if you wouldn’t mind (shameless plug alert) mentioning Hear Right Canada as a provider of this service, that would be fantastic (you can’t blame a guy for trying).
Consider it done.