In recent years, tinnitus has emerged as a wide-spread and costly health issue affecting millions of people. For example, in the United States, tinnitus now costs about $1.7 billion a year to treat. However, despite its commonality, there is no cure.
Despite the lack of a cure, there are both established and emerging approaches to manage the symptoms of tinnitus. For example, Dr. Michael D. Seidman, director of Otologic/Neurotologic at Henry Ford Hospital, recently introduced two new options for tinnitus relief. The first option is vagal nerve stimulation in which a small device is surgically implanted under the skin near the collarbone and uses electrical impulses to send signals along the vagus nerve to the brainstem. The second option uses a gel injection that may lessen the excessive signaling to the brain that occurs with tinnitus.
Seidman summarizes his commitment to the difficult work, saying, “About 2 to 4 percent are debilitated by their tinnitus so it rules their life…. That’s why we continue to work to find new treatment options for patients with tinnitus, to provide them with relief from their tinnitus and a better quality of life.”
Dr. Seidman also recently co-authored a scientific paper with Susan Bowyer, Ph.D., senior bioscientific researcher at Henry Ford Hospital. Their study used an imaging technique called magnetoencephalography (MEG) to determine the site of perception of tinnitus in the brain. MEG has the potential to allow physicians to target the area with electrical or chemical therapies to lessen symptoms.
While the physiological cause of tinnitus is not known, the medical community has identified conditions that trigger or worsen tinnitus. Finding a solution to lessen symptoms can be just as challenging, but physicians now have a growing range of options to offer patients to help manage symptoms – with possible new treatments on the horizon.