Debara L. Tucci, MD, professor of otolaryngology head and neck surgery, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina.
Q. What are the latest treatments for tinnitus?
A. About one in five adults has experienced tinnitus (a ringing or buzzing in the ears), and there is no single, standard treatment for it. An otolaryngologist can check for an underlying condition—a buildup of earwax is common and easily treated. Tinnitus also can be a side effect of certain medications, such as salicylates, which include aspirin, and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as naproxen (Aleve). If medication is the culprit, your doctor may be able to prescribe a different drug.
Recent research has shown that a device worn in the ear (similar to a hearing aid) that produces low-level sounds, used along with cognitive behavioral therapy, helps patients learn to ignore the tinnitus noise. The device is prescribed by a physician or trained audiologist. In another recent study, a weekly 25-minute session of acupuncture used with a pulsating electrical current reduced the intensity of tinnitus symptoms after six weeks. Standard acupuncture was not shown to improve tinnitus.