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. Sprinter Van Ecm Repair

    Pretty! This was an incredibly wonderful article. Thank you for supplying this info.


    June 1, 2021 at 04:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Specialty Van Repair


    June 1, 2021 at 05:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Roof Mounted A/C Leak Repair On Sprinter Van

    I absolutely love your blog.. Great colors & theme. Did you build this amazing site yourself? Please reply back as I’m trying to create my own blog and would like to find out where you got this from or exactly what the theme is called. Appreciate it!


    June 1, 2021 at 05:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Freightliner Sprinter Repair Near Me


    June 1, 2021 at 06:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Sprinter Heater Contol Repair

    This blog was... how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something which helped me. Many thanks!


    June 1, 2021 at 07:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Handicapped Van Repair

    An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend who was doing a little homework on this. And he in fact ordered me breakfast due to the fact that I stumbled upon it for him... lol. So allow me to reword this.... Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending some time to talk about this topic here on your website.


    June 1, 2021 at 07:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. royal isitish qozonlari

    Very useful information, and good for gas and electric boilers


    June 1, 2021 at 07:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. EncoxGtv

    canadian online pharmacies list accredited online pharmacy schools canadian pharmacies-24h

    June 1, 2021 at 07:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Sprinter Repair Shop

    The very next time I read a blog, Hopefully it doesn't disappoint me as much as this one. After all, I know it was my choice to read, however I really believed you would probably have something useful to say. All I hear is a bunch of complaining about something that you could fix if you weren't too busy searching for attention.


    June 1, 2021 at 08:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Repair Shop Near Me


    June 1, 2021 at 08:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. LITquid

    Has anyone vaped Sugar Lips eJuice Vaping ejuice?


    June 1, 2021 at 09:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Zisseloh

    pictures of cialis when will generic cialis be available in us the difference between viagra and cialis

    June 1, 2021 at 09:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. EncoxDev

    costco pharmacy online types of prescription drugs pharmaceuticals online australia

    June 1, 2021 at 10:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Camper Van Conversion Shop Near Me

    Great blog you have here.. It’s hard to find quality writing like yours nowadays. I truly appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!


    June 1, 2021 at 10:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Sprinter Van Upholstery

    You're so interesting! I do not believe I've truly read a single thing like that before. So good to discover somebody with a few genuine thoughts on this topic. Really.. thanks for starting this up. This web site is one thing that is needed on the internet, someone with a bit of originality!


    June 1, 2021 at 11:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Sprinter Van Upgrades Shop Near Me

    Very nice post. I definitely love this site. Keep writing!


    June 1, 2021 at 11:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Rv Restoration Shop Near Me

    Hi there! I just want to offer you a big thumbs up for the great info you have got here on this post. I am returning to your web site for more soon.


    June 1, 2021 at 12:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Ford Transit Conversion

    I’m impressed, I have to admit. Seldom do I encounter a blog that’s both educative and engaging, and without a doubt, you've hit the nail on the head. The issue is something too few folks are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy I found this in my hunt for something relating to this.


    June 1, 2021 at 12:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Roxana Easker

    Pretty! This was a really wonderful post. Thank you for providing this information.


    June 1, 2021 at 13:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Otto Wemmer

    This is a topic that's close to my heart... Thank you! Where are your contact details though?


    June 1, 2021 at 14:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Gregg Dutro

    Hello there! This blog post could not be written much better! Going through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He continually kept talking about this. I most certainly will forward this information to him. Fairly certain he's going to have a good read. Thank you for sharing!


    June 1, 2021 at 15:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. EncoxGtv

    prednisone canada pharmacy most abused prescription drugs pharmacy rx one discount codes

    June 1, 2021 at 15:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. school bus repair near me

    That is a very good tip particularly to those fresh to the blogosphere. Brief but very precise info… Appreciate your sharing this one. A must read article!


    June 1, 2021 at 16:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Jerald Nager

    After looking over a few of the blog posts on your blog, I seriously appreciate your technique of writing a blog. I book marked it to my bookmark webpage list and will be checking back in the near future. Please check out my web site as well and let me know what you think.


    June 1, 2021 at 17:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Van Technician Shop Near Me

    I'm very happy to uncover this great site. I want to to thank you for your time due to this fantastic read!! I definitely enjoyed every part of it and i also have you book-marked to see new things in your web site.


    June 1, 2021 at 18:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Ford High Top Van Repair Shop


    June 1, 2021 at 19:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Ernie Herzing


    June 1, 2021 at 19:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Rv Maintenance

    I needed to thank you for this fantastic read!! I absolutely loved every little bit of it. I've got you saved as a favorite to look at new stuff you post…


    June 1, 2021 at 21:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Rv Frame Repair Shop


    June 1, 2021 at 21:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. EncoxAni

    cipa canadian online pharmacies rx com pharmacy cvs pharmacy store near me

    June 1, 2021 at 21:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Sprinter Van Alignment

    Excellent blog you've got here.. It’s difficult to find high-quality writing like yours these days. I really appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!


    June 1, 2021 at 21:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Technician Shop


    June 2, 2021 at 00:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. ZisseVed

    united healthcare cialis coverage cialis what is it what cialis do

    June 2, 2021 at 01:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. recharge earning app

    Very useful information, and I would recharge my mobile using this information.


    June 2, 2021 at 02:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Mercedes Luxury Van Repair Shop

    You're so awesome! I don't think I have read something like this before. So great to discover somebody with unique 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 a bit of originality!


    June 2, 2021 at 05:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. fabrication shop near me

    Oh my goodness! Impressive article dude! Many thanks, However I am experiencing issues with your RSS. I don’t understand why I am unable to join it. Is there anyone else having similar RSS problems? Anybody who knows the answer can you kindly respond? Thanx!!


    June 2, 2021 at 06:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Darrell Wasylow

    I’m impressed, I have to admit. Seldom do I encounter a blog that’s equally educative and amusing, and without a doubt, you've hit the nail on the head. The issue is something which not enough folks are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy I stumbled across this in my hunt for something regarding this.


    June 2, 2021 at 06:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Jet Van Repair Shop

    There's definately a lot to learn about this issue. I really like all the points you've made.


    June 2, 2021 at 07:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. appomannoni

    erectile dysfunction when trying to conceive kayamy erectile band
    fast acting erectile pills slilicy best erectile dysfunction supplement
    erectile pills sample sicAdofs erectile reflex

    June 2, 2021 at 08:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. David Curles

    Greetings! Very helpful advice within this article! It is the little changes which will make the biggest changes. Thanks for sharing!


    June 2, 2021 at 08:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Monserrate Mcnerney


    June 2, 2021 at 09:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Sprinter Van Body Shop

    It’s difficult to find experienced people in this particular topic, however, you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks


    June 2, 2021 at 10:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Alvin Rupel

    Pretty! This has been an extremely wonderful article. Many thanks for supplying these details.


    June 2, 2021 at 11:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Johanne Tomski

    I would like to thank you for the efforts you have put in writing this site. I really hope to check out the same high-grade content from you in the future as well. In fact, your creative writing abilities has motivated me to get my own, personal blog now 😉


    June 2, 2021 at 11:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. rv furniture replacement


    June 2, 2021 at 14:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. appomannoni

    how erectile dysfunction affects marriage kayamy erectile organs pha
    erectile pumps slilicy erectile disorder 38 cfr
    erectile implants video sicAdofs erectile winstrol

    June 2, 2021 at 14:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Sprinter Van Collision Repair Shop Near Me


    June 2, 2021 at 14:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Ford Luxury Van Repair Shop Near Me

    Good day! I could have sworn I’ve visited this website before but after looking at some of the articles I realized it’s new to me. Nonetheless, I’m definitely delighted I stumbled upon it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back often!


    June 2, 2021 at 15:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. CrulkAsd

    tadalafil cialis bestprice cialis pills overnight 20mg cialis best price

    June 2, 2021 at 15:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Vicente Stemler

    Pretty! This has been an extremely wonderful article. Thanks for providing this information.


    June 2, 2021 at 15:23 | 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.