Dr. Alan Lockwood and colleagues at Buffalo Veterans Affairs Medical Centre and University of Buffalo have studied a small group of people with tinnitus who can vary the loudness of their tinnitus by clenching their jaws. The researches used positron emission tomography (PET) scans to measure the subsequent activity in the brain. Comparison of PET scans from this group against a control group has reportedly allowed the researchers to identify the site responsible for the tinnitus, a portion of the auditory cortex that processes signals from the ears. They also found that tinnitus activated the hippocampus, that part of the brain which comunicates with an area responsible for emotions, the limbic system.
This clinic uses a combination of audiological and psychological techniques to assist the person with tinnitus. Depending upon the results from the audiological and psychological interviews and assessments a number of options maybe available to an individual. These range from:
the use of background music and environmental sound masking
the fitting of a hearing aid, low level white noise generator, tinnitus masker or ear protection
TRT, psychological counselling including biofeedback, bodywork, cognitive techniques and hypnotherapy.
Anxiety and depression are dealt with primarily through psychological counselling or psychotherapy. The client may also have relationship problems due to preoccupation with the tinnitus, withdrawl, anger or to a lesser extent suicidal ideation.
The above tehcniques are specifically directed at teaching relaxation to cope with the tinnitus and reducing the state of stress. It may be necessary to counsel a couple conjointly because support usually comes from the family or the local tinnitus support group. This is very important as it is the comforting presence of a good friend or a family member offering help, support and reassurance that one is cared for and valued that is beneficial to the client's psychological well being and day to day activities.
Cognitive, behavioural and psychological coping strategies help reduce or eliminate the stressors associated with tinnitus, as well as minimise the intensity of stress responses. Once the client has learnt the appropriate skills, they usually feel more in control, less threatened about confronting the stressors and well on the way to dealing better with their tinnitus.