What’s the Buzz? Treatment Strategies in Chronic Subjective Tinnitus

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Referral for audiology evaluation

When no underlying pathology can be identified for tinnitus, the patient should be sent for a full audiology evaluation to screen for associated hearing loss. Discussion of audiology screening tests is beyond the scope of this article; however, testing includes otoscopy, audiography, tympanography, otoacoustic emission testing, auditory brainstem-response testing, and vestibular evoked myogenic potential testing.7

Probing nonphysical impacts

Quality of life and overall emotional wellness, including cognitive function, should be investigated in patients with tinnitus. Two questionnaires commonly used in the assessment of tinnitus bother are the Tinnitus Handicap Inventory and the Tinnitus Reaction Questionnaire.7 In a large, systematic review, Trevis et al report that “64% of studies investigating depression found an increase in depressive symptoms in people with chronic tinnitus compared to hearing control groups, and 62% of studies investigating anxiety reported significantly increased anxiety symptoms.”5


Tinnitus management should be viewed two ways: treatment of perceived loudness and treatment of comorbid symptoms relating to tinnitus bother.6 In the same meta-analysis, Trevis and colleagues found that patients with tinnitus had higher rates of anxiety, depression, and overall decline in cognitive function, including processing speed, concentration, and sleep disorders.5 It is useful to keep this observation in mind when reviewing treatment options for tinnitus.

Five classic pharmacotherapeutic approaches to tinnitus management are

  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antidepressants
  • Anesthetics
  • Anxiolytics
  • Lidocaine.

Newer medications that show some promise are N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonists, notably neramexane. Alternative pharmaceuticals include vitamin-based treatments, cannabinoids, and herbal compounds.

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