by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A man explained:
I have a question about tinnitus. I have it in the left ear. It started suddenly last February. I had the usual tests from three ENTs. They couldn’t figure out what caused it, so I started learning about tinnitus (which included reading your excellent book on tinnitus). I have a slight high-frequency hearing loss at 8 kHz (which is also the pitch of my tinnitus).
Here’s my question. I started a treatment called Neuromonics, which involves listening to music from a special device that has been shifted to be louder at the pitch of your tinnitus. The idea is that the auditory cortex is not getting enough stimulation at these frequencies, and thus causes tinnitus. My problem is that after a week of using the device, my tinnitus started getting louder—much louder—and the increase in loudness persisted for many hours after using the device. So I stopped the treatment. My tinnitus is not usually reactive to sound in this way—in fact, in many cases, sounds seem to quiet it down a bit. Have you heard of this treatment, and do you have any thoughts on it? Would you continue after having the reaction I had?
I don’t think I would continue a treatment that makes your tinnitus even louder than before. It doesn’t seem to be the right treatment for you.
What a lot of people fail to realize is that there are 10 or 12 “kinds” of tinnitus, and depending on your specific type of tinnitus, you need a treatment that works specifically for it—not just some generic treatment that assumes all tinnitus responds the same way.
For example, if your tinnitus is caused by your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) being out of place, then the Neuromonics treatment wouldn’t work, because it is trying to fix the wrong problem.
However, if your tinnitus is the result of hearing loss, then I think this treatment may have some merit. One caution, if your hearing loss and tinnitus are the result of noise damage, then your ears are likely more sensitive to louder sounds, and thus the louder Neuromonics music could make your tinnitus worse. Perhaps this is what is happening in your case.
Louder sounds can definitely increase your tinnitus. For example, my tinnitus gets much louder after talking on the phone for any length of time since I need the volume up very loud in order to hear/understand. As a result, my tinnitus screams at me for a while after I hang up the phone. If something like this is happening in your case I’d suggest you turn the volume down. It seems you have too much aural stimulation the way it is set now.
Normally louder sounds mask your tinnitus and drown it out, but in your case, it is making your tinnitus worse.
Does Neuromonics work? Obviously it works for some people, but I don’t have first-hand experience with this treatment, nor have I talked to anyone that has actually had success with it.
If you want to continue with the Neuromonics treatment, I’d suggest you give it one more trial with the volume turned down and see what happens. If that doesn’t keep your tinnitus at its normal level or lower, then I’d say the Neuromonics gizmo either isn’t adjusted right for you, or it just won’t work for you. Discuss the issues I’ve raised with your Neuromonics audiologist and see what they suggest.