Finally, a treatment for that buzzing in your ears
May 24th, 2012
06:31 PM ET

Finally, a treatment for that buzzing in your ears

Imagine the incessant, grating sound of buzzing in your ears - or constant beeping, whistling, dripping, or clicking.  Imagine the chatter of crickets or birds resonating in your head all day long.

Then realize that there are no actual birds or crickets. No dripping faucet. No clicking or whistling happening in the vicinity.

That is a small glimpse of life with tinnitus:  The perception of sound, that doesn't exist, manufactured by the brain.  

"I hear tree frogs and crickets and bugs, and really loud noise on top of that," said Ginny Morrell, 60, who has suffered with tinnitus for two years. "It started one day and never went away. It never wavers, 24 hours a day."

Morrell says she fills her life with sound - a radio during the day, a television droning in the background while she sleeps - as a way to drown out the din.  It's a distraction that sometimes works.

"It's not going to kill me, it's not cancer," said Morrell.  "But it might drive me crazy."

But according to a new study, the most effective treatment for Morrell's tinnitus may involve just the opposite of what she's currently doing: Rather than ignoring the sound, focus on it.

"In the study we thought, what if we try to intervene in this avoidance behavior and we expose patients to their tinnitus sounds," said Rilana Cima, the study's lead author and a clinical psychologist at Adelante Centre of Expertise in Rehabilitation and Audiology in the Netherlands.  "If you expose people to something they're afraid of, they actually habituate to this stimulation."

Cima compares the approach, which has its roots in cognitive behavioral therapy, to helping people with a spider phobia to slowly stem that fear.  Intermittent exposure to a spider - or in the case of tinnitus, that annoying buzzing - may temper the fear associated with it.

The study, conducted in the Netherlands, involved 492 patients. Half received an audiological work-up and no other structured treatment, while the other half received integrated care, including tinnitus-focused cognitive behavioral therapy. 

The therapy included having patients perform mundane, everyday tasks, while being exposed to whatever sound is associated with their tinnitus. 

"People usually avoid their own sound," said Cima.  "So they practice paying attention to their sound and what reactions they're having because of that sound."

Among the group who got the therapy, about 70% reported improvements in their quality of life or decreased tinnitus a year after beginning treatment. 

Importantly, for a malady that has its roots in the brain, many patients also reported improvements in tinnitus-related fear and anxiety. 

"The sound didn't disappear but fear reactions did," said Cima.

What makes tinnitus so difficult to treat is that it is virtually impossible to pinpoint the origin of the sound (there is no established neural origin for the condition) and each sufferer's experience is unique.  That makes it difficult to craft a treatment that works for everyone.

The study, published today in the Lancet, is one of the first rigorous trials suggesting relief for the approximately 50 million tinnitus sufferers in the U.S., according to the American Tinnitus Association.

Richard Salvi, a tinnitus expert with the Center for Hearing & Deafness at the University of Buffalo, said the study is important and should be encouraging for people like Morrell.  But, he adds, most tinnitus sufferers are looking for a cure.

"Many tinnitus patients expect immediate and complete cessation of their tinnitus," said Salvi in an email to CNN.  "None of the current treatments meet these patient expectations. Consequently, much more work needs to be done."

Morrell is heartened that a treatment may be out there but, from where she sits in small-town Brockton, Massachusetts, it seems elusive.  She says few physicians in her area understand her condition, let alone how to treat it using cognitive behavioral therapy.

"I had one doctor say to me I should take Klonopin (an anti-seizure/anti-anxiety medication) for my tinnitus," said Morrell.  "He said to take one the first day, two the second, and to keep stepping it up to 12 a day if I needed to. Can you believe that?"

What nags Morrell almost as much as her condition, is the fear associated with it - that it will get worse. 

Mostly, she wants something simple that she used to take for granted:  "My issue with it is not hearing silence," she said.  "I will never hear silence again."

What Morrell craves is a reset button that will make the noise disappear. 

Curing tinnitus may never be that simple.

soundoff (3,065 Responses)
  1. aika online private server


    May 5, 2021 at 03:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. purpose coach


    May 5, 2021 at 04:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. freedom vans


    May 5, 2021 at 04:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Eye Care Center

    I have to thank you for the efforts you've put in penning this site. I really hope to check out the same high-grade blog posts by you in the future as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my own, personal website now 😉


    May 5, 2021 at 04:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. GtnbCrulk

    viagra com free sample http://jokviagra.com/ viagra ad

    May 5, 2021 at 04:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. AnooEncox

    generic viagra yahoo answers http://llviagra.com/ canadian pharmacy for generic viagra

    May 5, 2021 at 05:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. coachmen beyond

    I’m amazed, I must say. Seldom do I encounter a blog that’s equally educative and amusing, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. The issue is something that too few men and women are speaking intelligently about. Now i'm very happy that I stumbled across this in my hunt for something concerning this.


    May 5, 2021 at 05:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. nearest truck repair


    May 5, 2021 at 06:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. online dating coach

    Everything is very open with a really clear explanation of the challenges. It was truly informative. Your website is very helpful. Thanks for sharing!


    May 5, 2021 at 06:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Vision Centers Near Me


    May 5, 2021 at 07:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. RV Couches Near Me

    You have made some really good points there. I looked on the net to learn more about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this website.


    May 5, 2021 at 07:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. ford truck repair


    May 5, 2021 at 08:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Arizona Vision Ahwatukee

    Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular post! It's the little changes which will make the most important changes. Many thanks for sharing!


    May 5, 2021 at 08:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. aika online private server


    May 5, 2021 at 08:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. truck rear window leak repair services near me


    May 5, 2021 at 10:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. western star 4700 sb


    May 5, 2021 at 12:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. online dating training

    Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Thank you, However I am encountering issues with your RSS. I don’t understand the reason why I am unable to subscribe to it. Is there anybody else getting identical RSS problems? Anyone who knows the solution will you kindly respond? Thanx!!


    May 5, 2021 at 13:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. plaquenil side effects rash

    plaquenil and weight gain https://hydroplaquenil.com/# what does plaquenil do

    May 5, 2021 at 17:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Oakley Prescription Sunglasses


    May 5, 2021 at 17:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Best Optometrist Near Me


    May 5, 2021 at 17:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. ford transit connect conversion


    May 5, 2021 at 19:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Best Prescription Sunglasses

    I blog frequently and I really appreciate your information. Your article has truly peaked my interest. I'm going to bookmark your site and keep checking for new information about once a week. I opted in for your RSS feed as well.


    May 5, 2021 at 19:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. italian near me

    I want to to thank you for this great read!! I absolutely loved every little bit of it. I've got you book marked to look at new stuff you post…


    May 5, 2021 at 19:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. pest control near me

    This website was... how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I've found something that helped me. Kudos!


    May 5, 2021 at 19:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. LbsoZisse

    buy cialisonline http://ucialisdas.com/ over the counter viagra cialis

    May 5, 2021 at 19:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. thrift store near me


    May 5, 2021 at 20:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. commercial truck maintenance near me

    An intriguing discussion is definitely worth comment. I believe that you should publish more about this subject matter, it may not be a taboo subject but typically people do not speak about such topics. To the next! Best wishes!!


    May 5, 2021 at 21:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. RV Body Shop Los Angeles

    Aw, this was a really good post. Taking the time and actual effort to create a very good article… but what can I say… I put things off a whole lot and don't manage to get nearly anything done.


    May 5, 2021 at 21:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. RV Frame Orange County


    May 5, 2021 at 21:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Eye Doctor Near Me Now


    May 6, 2021 at 01:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. tow truck repair near me


    May 6, 2021 at 02:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. truck and trailer repair shop near me


    May 6, 2021 at 02:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. life training


    May 6, 2021 at 03:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Eye Exam Phoenix Az

    You are so awesome! I don't believe I've read through anything like that before. So wonderful to find somebody with some genuine thoughts on this subject matter. Seriously.. thanks for starting this up. This site is something that is required on the internet, someone with some originality!


    May 6, 2021 at 04:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. RV Inspection Near Me


    May 6, 2021 at 07:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Pediatric Optometrist


    May 6, 2021 at 08:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Orthokeratology Near Me

    This is the perfect web site for anyone who wishes to understand this topic. You understand so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I really will need to…HaHa). You certainly put a fresh spin on a subject which has been written about for decades. Wonderful stuff, just great!


    May 6, 2021 at 09:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. chevy express van conversion


    May 6, 2021 at 12:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. mattress near me

    Good blog you have here.. It’s difficult to find quality writing like yours these days. I honestly appreciate people like you! Take care!!


    May 6, 2021 at 13:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. sushi near me

    That is a really good tip particularly to those fresh to the blogosphere. Simple but very precise information… Thank you for sharing this one. A must read article!


    May 6, 2021 at 13:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. electronics store near me

    I really like looking through an article that can make men and women think. Also, many thanks for allowing for me to comment!


    May 6, 2021 at 13:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. semi truck ac repair

    After I initially commented I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on every time a comment is added I get four emails with the exact same comment. There has to be a way you can remove me from that service? Thanks a lot!


    May 6, 2021 at 14:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. poker idn

    Have you ever thought about adding a little bit more than just your articles?

    I mean, what you say is important and all. Nevertheless imagine if you added
    some great photos or video clips to give your posts more, "pop"!

    Your content is excellent but with images and video clips, this website could definitely be one of the greatest in its field.

    Superb blog!

    May 6, 2021 at 16:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. moneygram near me


    May 6, 2021 at 17:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. macy's near me

    I truly love your site.. Excellent colors & theme. Did you build this website yourself? Please reply back as I’m trying to create my very own blog and would love to find out where you got this from or just what the theme is called. Cheers!


    May 6, 2021 at 17:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. rv repair shops

    Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Many thanks, However I am encountering difficulties with your RSS. I don’t understand why I am unable to join it. Is there anyone else getting identical RSS issues? Anybody who knows the answer can you kindly respond? Thanks!!


    May 6, 2021 at 17:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. california camper repair

    Good post! We will be linking to this particularly great article on our website. Keep up the good writing.


    May 6, 2021 at 17:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. book store near me


    May 6, 2021 at 17:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. body shop orange ca


    May 6, 2021 at 17:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Barley Wine Beer

    Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon on a daily basis. It will always be helpful to read content from other authors and practice something from their web sites.


    May 6, 2021 at 17:53 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59

Leave a Reply to Tembepteriope


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.