Music Therapy Treatment for Tinnitus Shows Good Results
Tinnitus — or ringing of the ears — affects up to 50 million Americans. At Duke University, audiologists are successfully treating some of the most severe cases using another sound: music.
Imagine going through life with this as background noise: “a high-pitched ringing that was pretty much constant, that never goes away,” said Steve Cooper, a tinnitus patient.
It’s what life has been like for Cooper. He’s been hearing that high-pitched ringing off and on for decades. The problem started after college, a time when he attended a lot of loud rock concerts.
Tinnitus often stems from some kind of hearing loss and is common among older adults. Doctors, however, are seeing younger patients who’ve been exposed to loud music or gunfire from combat. To make up for the hearing loss, the brain fills that empty space with noise.
Tinnitus is “very similar to phantom limb pain, where patients without a hand still say they feel and sense things even though there’s no hand there,” said audiologist Becca Price of the Duke University Health System.
Price has been treating some of the most severe cases of tinnitus with a device that looks like an MP3 player. Patients listen to classical or New Age music that includes whatever sound is bothering the patient. Over time the noise is reduced and the patient continues to listen to the relaxing music.
“So we’re giving them input in the area where there’s damage, so the brain says ‘Ah, I don’t have to go searching for that sound,’” said Price.
After about nine months, the patient’s brain is trained to ignore the ringing. It’s not a cure but helps the brain focus elsewhere. It’s worked so far for Cooper.
“It has helped me for my quality of life. I don’t focus on the ringing all the time. I continue to work,” he said.
It may not be the Dooby Brothers but, this time, music is helping him tune out the noise and tune in to real life.
Duke is one of several sites around the country using the MP3 device. The Food and Drug Administration approved it six years ago. The treatment costs around $4,500
Source: KY3 News