New Treatment for Tinnitus Sufferers

Recent trials with multiple different medications have led esearchers to be optimistic that tinnitus or ringing and roaring noises in the ears may be treatable. New techniques using micro catheters and tiny pumps are being used to infuse microdoses of medicines into the inner ear across intact inner ear membranes. These medications have been found to be highly successful in controlling attacks of vertigo for patients with Meniere's syndrome. In some patients with early symptoms, medications can reverse the fullness, hearing loss, and ringing that accompany the onset of Meniere's attacks.

For some patients, steroid medications such as cortisone or prednisone, can help to reverse attacks when administered orally or through an IV. Relief may be rapid and in some cases long lasting. In other patients, antibiotics previously thought to be toxic to the inner ear have been found, in tiny doses, to have a predictable improving effect.

Otologists around the world have been performing a type of procedure for patients with tinnitus that has been commonly used for childrens ear problems. Tympanostomy, or placement of a tube in the eardrum, can allow the infusion of medication directly into the middle ear. There, the drugs can diffuse across intact Round Window Membranes into the inner ear. In many cases, the technique can achieve significant improvement within hours. Many patients note near total relief from the inner ear noises.

Not all patients achieve improvement. Patients with recent onset of symptoms seem to gain the quickest relief. Those with longstanding symptoms for months or years may not gain as much improvement.

Research is continuing to identify strategies which may provide greatest treatment success. Controversy continues regarding which drugs and what doses may give greatest relief. Many patients are helped with oral medications without use of surgically placed tubes.

Some centers recommend treatment intermittently with middle ear perfusion once every 2 weeks. Other centers prescribe frequent dosing on a daily or every other day basis.

Not all insurance carriers provide coverage for this type of procedure. Improvement in rapid relief of balance disturbance and improved fall prevention for patients with balance dysfunction will rapidly receive approval. Similar relief for tinnitus may find coverage from carriers because of the frequent association of tinnitus and balance disturbance.

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