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

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Alternative nonmedical therapies have become popular; they include meditation, yoga, physical therapy, mindfulness, and tinnitus-masking treatment with sound.

Results of a study of yoga and meditation showed that patients felt more relaxed, but that these interventions had no effect on the severity of tinnitus. The principle behind yoga practice, according to Köksoy and colleagues, is that the discipline is thought to affect the limbic system by deactivating the sympathetic response to stimulation from surrounding sounds. In addition, Köksoy states, other researchers have provided evidence that yoga increases circulating levels of antioxidants, which in turn reduce oxidative stress.34

Particularly among members of the millennial generation, mindfulness has become a buzzword. The practice refers to a “method for facing, exploring, and alleviating suffering by relating to present experiences.”35 Roland and colleagues conducted a clinical trial of mindfulness practiced by a cohort of patients with bothersome tinnitus; results were based on scores gleaned from standard rating scales (eg, Global Bothersome Scale, Cognitive and Affective Mindfulness Scale-Revised, Cognitive Failures Questionnaire, Tinnitus Handicap Inventory, and Tinnitus Functional Index). Evaluated before and four weeks after cessation of therapy, subjects reported that tinnitus bother was reduced, but none showed statistically significant improvement in depression, anxiety, or cognitive ability.35

Used for more than 40 years, sound-based therapy has been discussed in conjunction with TRT.36 It is recognized as an approved but optional treatment by the AAO–HNS. In response to a 2010 study by Hobson that used sound-based therapy alone for tinnitus, Tunkel and colleagues cautioned that the modality showed little benefit. The major downside to acoustic therapy, according to the AAO–HNS clinical guidelines, is cost and patients’ excessive expectation of effectiveness.6

According to the AAO–HNS, repetitive-transcranial magnetic stimulation is not supported as a valid treatment for tinnitus because it can lead to seizures in patients who are taking medication that lowers the seizure threshold or who have a secondary cause of tinnitus, such as a tumor—therefore creating risk that outweighs any benefit.6

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