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. roof repairs near me


    May 26, 2021 at 05:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. ZisseVed

    genericcialis https://krocialis.com/ – when is generic cialis available in us what does cialis look like

    May 26, 2021 at 05:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. photo restoration orange county ca

    Having read this I thought it was very enlightening. I appreciate you taking the time and energy to put this information together. I once again find myself spending way too much time both reading and commenting. But so what, it was still worthwhile!


    May 26, 2021 at 06:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. american leak detection orange county

    Aw, this was an incredibly good post. Spending some time and actual effort to produce a very good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate a whole lot and don't seem to get nearly anything done.


    May 26, 2021 at 08:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Tembepteriope

    how to take sildenafil https://hydroaaralen.com/ sildenafil tablets sildenafil brand name sildenafil citrate 100mg

    May 26, 2021 at 08:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. accident repair shop near me

    It’s difficult to find experienced people on this topic, but you seem like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks


    May 26, 2021 at 08:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. rv renovation near me


    May 26, 2021 at 09:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. tausAffessy

    https://tadagatadalafil.com/ prescription tadalafil online https://tadalafilol.com/ – generic cialis online fast shipping cost of cialis

    May 26, 2021 at 09:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Unitmerienepeft

    generic cialis tadalafil cialis cost canada generic tadalafil side effects of tadalafil https://cttadalafil.com/

    May 26, 2021 at 09:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. RV Maintenance Near Me


    May 26, 2021 at 10:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. RV Interior Remodeling Los Angeles

    This site truly has all of the info I needed concerning this subject and didn’t know who to ask.


    May 26, 2021 at 11:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. RV Tires Orange County


    May 26, 2021 at 11:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Tembepteriope

    sildenafil vs viagra https://chloroquinesun.com/ – sildenafil 100mg coupon sildenafil dosage how long does it take for sildenafil to take effect https://hydroxyaralen.com/

    May 26, 2021 at 11:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. semi truck shops near me

    I wanted to thank you for this excellent read!! I definitely enjoyed every little bit of it. I've got you saved as a favorite to look at new things you post…


    May 26, 2021 at 11:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. RV Mechanics Near Me


    May 26, 2021 at 12:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. windshield repair around me

    Hi there! This article couldn’t be written much better! Going through this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He always kept talking about this. I most certainly will forward this information to him. Fairly certain he will have a very good read. Thanks for sharing!


    May 26, 2021 at 12:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Tembepteriope

    sildenafil cost https://aralenquinestrx.com/ – sildenafil 100mg price sildenafil citrate side effects sildenafil 50 mg https://chloroquinestrx.com/

    May 26, 2021 at 12:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Tritreviewifind

    buy generic cialis online with mastercard best price usa tadalafil generic cialis tadalafil generic cialis online fast shipping https://apcalisetadalafil.com/

    May 26, 2021 at 12:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. tausAffessy

    cialis at canadian pharmacy https://cttadalafil.com/ – tadalafil price walmart cheap cialis pills for sale tadalafil daily online https://tadagatadalafil.com/

    May 26, 2021 at 13:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Social Media Marketing Specialists

    This excellent website really has all of the information I needed about this subject and didnít know who to ask.


    May 26, 2021 at 13:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. RV Driver Seats California

    I used to be able to find good information from your content.


    May 26, 2021 at 13:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. geico near me


    May 26, 2021 at 13:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Tembepteriope

    sildenafil citrate 20 mg https://hydroxychloroquinetc.com/ – tadalafil vs sildenafil sildenafil mechanism of action buy sildenafil https://prednisolonesodiumphosphat.com/

    May 26, 2021 at 13:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. box truck roof repair


    May 26, 2021 at 14:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Tembepteriope

    sildenafil citrate 20 mg sildenafil for pulmonary hypertension sildenafil citrate tablets 100mg https://hydroxychloroquinegld.com/

    May 26, 2021 at 14:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. RV Flooring Orange County

    I was able to find good information from your blog articles.


    May 26, 2021 at 15:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Tembepteriope

    http://tadarisetadalafil.com/ sildenafil price how long does sildenafil last sildenafil 25 mg sildenafil 100 mg

    May 26, 2021 at 17:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. rv refrigerator repair company

    Hello there, There's no doubt that your blog may be having browser compatibility issues. When I take a look at your blog in Safari, it looks fine however, if opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping issues. I merely wanted to give you a quick heads up! Besides that, wonderful blog!


    May 26, 2021 at 18:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. RV Tires Riverside


    May 26, 2021 at 18:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. brimonidine

    combigan uk combigan side effects

    May 26, 2021 at 18:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Tembepteriope

    https://hydroaaralen.com/ sildenafil 50 mg tablet sildenafil pills sildenafil 20 mg tablet what is sildenafil used for

    May 26, 2021 at 18:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. collision center of temecula temecula ca


    May 26, 2021 at 18:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. EncoxGtv

    pharmacy toronto canada doxycycline canadian pharmacy best indian pharmacy online

    May 26, 2021 at 19:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Soosteemocush

    tadalafil liquid https://cttadalafil.com/ – tadalafil cost in canada tadalafil brands buy cialis https://cttadalafil.com/

    May 26, 2021 at 20:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. dashboard repair shops

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


    May 26, 2021 at 20:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Tembepteriope

    sildenafil cost tadalafil vs sildenafil sildenafil 100mg sildenafil interactions https://cialisfil.com/# – sildenafil tablets 100mg

    May 26, 2021 at 21:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. orange county rv


    May 26, 2021 at 21:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. 2006 Dodge Sprinter 2500 Heater Control Repair


    May 26, 2021 at 22:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Tembepteriope

    sildenafil https://chloroquineth.com/ – sildenafil price walmart sildenafil 60mg sildenafil 60mg https://hydrochloroquinebtc.com/

    May 26, 2021 at 22:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. rv repair los angeles


    May 26, 2021 at 22:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. EncoxDev

    is canada drugs online legitimate online pharmacy reviews american rx pharmacy

    May 26, 2021 at 22:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Zisseloh

    dosages for cialis https://rcialisgl.com/ – does cigna cover cialis how long can you keep cialis

    May 26, 2021 at 23:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Unitmerienepeft

    https://tadacipetadalafil.com/ where to buy tadalafil on line https://tadalafilol.com/ – tadalafil dosage what is tadalafil

    May 26, 2021 at 23:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. RV Plumbing Near Me

    You are so interesting! I don't suppose I've truly read something like that before. So wonderful to discover somebody with original thoughts on this topic. Really.. many thanks for starting this up. This web site is one thing that is required on the web, someone with some originality!


    May 26, 2021 at 23:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Tembepteriope

    how long does sildenafil last sildenafil side effects what is sildenafil citrate https://hydroaralenus.com/

    May 26, 2021 at 23:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. EncoxAni

    pharmacy continuing education online https://pharmacyken.com/ – canadian pharmacy ambien walmart store 100 pharmacy

    May 26, 2021 at 23:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. RV Awning California

    I'd like to thank you for the efforts you have put in writing this site. I'm hoping to view the same high-grade blog posts by you in the future as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my own, personal website now 😉


    May 26, 2021 at 23:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Tembepteriope

    how long does sildenafil last how to take sildenafil how long does sildenafil last sildenafil tablets https://azithromycindot.com – roman sildenafil

    May 27, 2021 at 00:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. RV Interior Remodeling Near Me


    May 27, 2021 at 00:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. RV Slide Out Near Me

    I needed to thank you for this great read!! I certainly loved every bit of it. I've got you saved as a favorite to look at new things you post…


    May 27, 2021 at 01:05 | 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 tausAffessy


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.