Tinnitus is a constant ringing, or buzzing, in the ears. It is associated with anxiety, sleep disturbance, depression and reduced quality of life. If you suffer from tinnitus, you are not alone. Bout a third of adults suffer from tinnitus and about 10% suffer profoundly.
Providing that an underlying cause of tinnitus has been excluded, it can be very difficult to treat.
TMS (Transcranial magnetic stimulation) is a promising treatment for tinnitus.
Tinnitus is thought to involve two key problems:
1) the auditory cortex (part of the brain responsible for processing sound) is overactive, leading to the ringing sound.
2) the part of the brain that would usually help you tune out or ignore the unhelpful information does not ignore the sound and in fact begins to pay even more attention to it. TMS can target both issues by reducing the overactivity of the auditory cortex and enhancing the activity of the “noise cancelling” network.
Overall, it seems that between 20 to 50% of patients receiving TMS for tinnitus will have some improvement. The benefits can last anywhere from weeks up to six months after treatment. The graph below shows a greater decrease in tinnitus symptoms over time in patients receiving real TMS (solid line) compared to patients receiving a sham or placebo treatment (dashed line). Remarkably, patients continued to benefit even up to 6 months after the last treatment session (RL Folmer et al, 2015).