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Experimental, controversial, and futuristic treatments for chronic tinnitus



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J Am Acad Audiol. 2014 Jan;25(1):106-25. doi: 10.3766/jaaa.25.1.7.

Experimental, controversial, and futuristic treatments for chronic tinnitus.

Folmer RL1, Theodoroff SM1, Martin WH2, Shi Y3.

  • 1National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research, Portland VA Medical Center, Portland, OR; Department of Otolaryngology, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, OR.
  • 2Department of Otolaryngology, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, OR.
  • 3Department of Otolaryngology, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, OR; Currently Metokos LLC, Portland, OR.


Because chronic tinnitus is a condition that negatively impacts the quality of life of millions of people worldwide, a safe and effective treatment for tinnitus has been sought for millennia. However, effective treatments for tinnitus are greatly outnumbered by ineffective strategies, medications, devices, and surgeries that continue to be developed and promoted for the condition.


This article describes and critiques experimental, controversial, and potential treatments for chronic tinnitus. The purpose of this review is to provide information that should help patients and clinicians to select tinnitus treatment and management strategies most likely to be effective for each set of symptoms and circumstances.


PubMed and MEDLINE databases (National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine) were searched for the term tinnitus in articles published from 1940 to 2012. Other historical documents and publications were also reviewed as needed for particular topics.


Studies included in this review were selected to represent a sampling of treatment methodologies that have been used for tinnitus.


Due to the heterogeneity of the studies reviewed, it was not appropriate to perform a meta-analysis. A selective review of the literature was conducted to summarize and critique published research results.


Most invasive treatments for tinnitus should be avoided because

(1) at best, there is scant evidence that any of these treatments is effective, and

(2) the risk to patients for most invasive procedures is much greater than the risk posed by the tinnitus perception.

Effective and noninvasive treatments for tinnitus include

  • acoustic therapy (which includes hearing aids and other types of environmental sound enrichment);
  • cognitive-behavioral therapy;
  • psychological counseling;
  • hypnosis;
  • biofeedback; and
  • relaxation training.


Patients and clinicians should be especially cautious when considering invasive (and potentially harmful) treatments for tinnitus, which is a non-life-threatening symptom.

Unless well-designed clinical trials verify that a tinnitus therapy demonstrates effectiveness above and beyond the placebo effect, consumers should be wary of medications, devices, or procedures promoted as a "cure."

Although a true cure for tinnitus has not yet been found, effective and noninvasive tinnitus management strategies are available now. If progress is made to medically (or genetically) treat sensorineural hearing loss in humans, this breakthrough should also help to simultaneously reduce the perception of tinnitus for many patients.

American Academy of Audiology.



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