NEWS - News: Managing Ringing in the Ears with Music Therapy

Posted by USM on Monday, February 16, 2009 @ 18:16:59 CST
2 Bill Guhl was initially skeptical about using music therapy to manage his tinnitus, a progressively worsening hearing condition commonly described as ringing in the ears, that he developed serving in noisy Vietnam War battlefields.

Four months into treatment, though, the Weston, Ohio, man said his hearing has improved by about 60 percent, according to the Toledo Blade.

Hearing loud noises, which used to cause pain to shoot down into his shoulder, no longer hurts, Guhl said recently. "Taking the pain out of this whole thing has really helped," he added. For the first time in years, he can go to restaurants and social gatherings without wearing earplugs.

Guhl is one of 32 tinnitus patients being treated at Northwest Ohio Hearing Clinic with an FDA-approved medical device developed by Neuromonics Inc. of Bethlehem, Pa. All but one of the patients are progressing, said Randa Mansour-Shousher, doctor of audiology at the private clinic.

Approximately 12 million Americans have chronic tinnitus, a debilitating condition for which there is no known cure. Up to 2 million of them are unable to work or even leave home, according to the American Tinnitus Association.

The Neuromonics device is unique both because it takes less time than other sound therapies and because it uses music, said Jennifer DuPriest, spokeswoman for the association, who called sound therapies "the most effective form of treatment to date."

After patients are evaluated, they are given Neuromonics devices that look like typical MP3 players. The devices deliver auditory stimulation at high frequencies and keep track of usage information to help evaluate and customize treatments.

The two-phase treatment typically takes about six months, and patients may continue using the devices during periodic tinnitus disturbances, Mansour-Shousher said, adding that during the treatment's second phase, which Guhl is in, patients' brains are retrained to ignore the sounds.

Patients must use the device for two to three hours a day when noises are most disturbing for the first couple of months, Mansour-Shousher said. "It's not an easy thing to deal with," she said. "You can't just put this on and then it's done."

Guhl, who says he hears a sound similar to locusts, especially in his right ear, said he tried other tinnitus treatments without success. The Neuromonics treatment, he said, "doesn't really remove the noise. It takes your focus off of it."

excerpt from Newsday

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