What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is well defined as a sound in the ear deprived of the outer auditory stimulus. Tinnitus is triggered by an injury to the compound auditory pathways inside the ears and brain.
Customarily, sound travels from the outer ear pass through the middle ear into the inner ear. The inner ear contains the auditory nerve and the cochlea which is a coiled, spiral tube with multiple sensitive hair cells.
When the cochlea gets damaged, the auditory nerve decreases the information it directs to the brain.
The brain in return tries to compensate this by making use of signals from the parts of the cochlea that are still functional. These signals are over-represented in the brain, thus causing the sounds of tinnitus.
“It is believed that a good number of people experience at least an episode of tinnitus, with its prevalence increasing with age and it is higher in individuals older than 60 years.”
Tinnitus symptoms are intolerable in almost 20% of the cases and are more predominant among persons with hearing disorders.
Tinnitus can lead to medical complications such as:
Although there is no accepted treatment, various therapeutic ways have been suggested, which include the use of medications such as:
- Local Anesthetics
Medical interventions employed in the quest to manage tinnitus are:
- Sound Therapy
- Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
- Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation
- Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) – has in recent times been tried with encouraging results in patients with tinnitus
“The laser has a range of uses in medicine such as pain control, wound healing, nerve repair, and treating tinnitus and Meniere’s disease.”
Although the precise mechanism of the effect of low-level laser therapy on tinnitus is not well understood, it is believed that it can be induced by increasing body cell proliferation, the growth factor secretion and consequently improvement of blood flow in the inner ear, and activation of hair cells mitochondria.
Low Light Laser Therapy is used mainly as the treatment of choice in the management of tinnitus. Laser energy in the red spectrum is believed to penetrate the tissues like in the mitochondria which are the powerhouse of cells in our bodies.
Laser energy stimulates the mitochondria to produce more adenosine triphosphate which in turn leads to more energy production.
Laser therapy is believed to repair damaged tissues and reverse many degenerative conditions.
The Effectiveness of Laser Therapy in Tinnitus Management
Of late, low light laser irradiation is being used as an alternative therapeutic measure for the treatment of cochlear dysfunction like chronic tinnitus and hearing loss.
To prevent the patient from experiencing periods of dizziness, the inner ear obtains everyday treatment by regulating the distribution of low-level laser light according to the extent of impairment as per individual.
“The low-level laser light is applied using 3-lasers with a total dosage of at least 4000 joules. Every laser is believed to emit 830 nm and 630-700 nm at the same time.”
Low-Level Laser Therapy
The low-level laser light is dispersed expansively to concentrate the entire surroundings of the organ with photon energy to ensure the best probable biostimulation effect.
This is the requirement for a positive long-term effect of low-level laser therapy. Tinnitus treatment usually takes about an hour and is usually carried in a comfortable position where the person is required to lie down.
During the treatment, the correct positioning of the source of light is fundamental and should be constantly observed. In the initial stages of treating tinnitus, it is important to examine the condition of the patient using audiometry.
Another audiometry should also be used to check the regeneration process at the end of the tinnitus treatment. Tinnitus treatment is generally painless and has minimal risks.
After the completion of 10-days out-patient treatment, the doctor is required to maintain close contact with the patient until the best healing results are achieved.
Successful management of tinnitus relies on a medical team comprising of:
- Pain Specialists
Despite the progress in understanding the progression of tinnitus, various means of treatment still focus on increasing the awareness of tinnitus and its effects on quality of life rather than the ultimate cure.
Even though we are far from understanding the pathophysiology of tinnitus, the treatment of choice is much more encouraging than the ones that were there a decade ago.
Owing to medical development with molecular, biochemical, and imaging techniques, vital insights into the core etiology of tinnitus have occurred.
“Presently, patients show improvement with counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy and increased use of diverse sound therapy.”
However, many people prefer a drug cure that would lead to a comprehensive subdual of tinnitus.
Looking towards the future treatment of tinnitus, the development of new molecular treatment for complete management of tinnitus will be an imperative goal.