Millions of people suffer from ringing in the ears or tinnitus. For many, the internal buzzing, chirping or hissing interferes with quality of life. Now German researchers have reported that tailored music therapy may be helpful. The scientists developed musical treatments that corresponded the patient’s taste in listening. They filtered out the frequencies that corresponded to the tinnitus the patient experienced. After a year of listening to these special sound tracks, most patients reported that the tinnitus noise was not as loud or bothersome.

[Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, online Dec. 28, 2009

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  1. RA

    I am 63. I have had SCREAMING tinnitus for 15 years. It is a very loud and constant noise in my head. I drank 90-proof gin to get me to sleep and I did not sleep very well. I used a sound machine (ocean sounds) to help lull myself to sleep also. I was prescribed TRAZADONE (antidepressant) as a sleep aid. I am totally sober now and I no longer use my sound machine. I go to sleep right away and sleep for 7 to 8 hours… the drug has changed my life.

  2. JRZ

    At 63 I have had loud, high-pitched electronic-sounding tinnitus all of my life. When a teenager I spent several months high in the Colorado mountains. After being there for about six weeks the ringing stopped and did not return until I returned to the midwest. MSG will cause the ringing to intensify and a large dose will make the ringing louder than real sound. There is no doubt in my mind that allergens either cause or intensify tinnitus. Some pain-relievers do too.
    Loud noises can cause temporarily intense tinnitus. Colds, allergies and the like can also make the ringing more intense. Whenever I am sick, it seems to be worse. The worst I can remember was when I was given ether for a tonsilectomy as a child. As I went under the noise was overwhelming.
    Physicians have told me it is my imagination; that it doesn’t exist; that it is “nerve damage”; etc. None of them have so far done anything to investigate the problem. If you have tinnitus try fasting for a couple of days to see if it improves. A short mountain vacation for me isn’t long enough to stop the noise.

  3. jb

    I lost some of my hearing from a mini stroke and as a result left with ringing in both ears. I have done a lot of reading on the subject and found out some causes, other than loud music or machinery over the years, is nerve damage to the brain. I have had several MRI and MRA scans to check my arteries for blood flow.

  4. HMF

    As a child, I can remember taking hearing tests which were required in school (way back in the day). On the questionnaire they asked,”Did you ever have ringing in your ears?” I replied that when my Mom gave me aspirin I did. And my hearing was always good. Many years went by and in my late 40s it occurred to me that my ears were ALWAYS ringing. It was mildly annoying, as I was raising my family and was too busy to think about it. In the last few years I’ve been a widow and it seems to have grown louder…. especially if I take NSAIDs pain killers for arthritis.
    Now I take only Tylonol, and Aleve when I am really hurting. I can live with this high-pitched hissing except when I have a head cold. Then it gets louder with an underlying rumble. Calms down when the cold is gone.
    And to TAO… I am going on 78 years old and I am in pretty good health; so I wouldn’t worry if I were you. Just deal with it the best you can. My problem is that I’ve lost some hearing in one ear, and the hissing doesn’t help me to compensate with the other ear.
    Maybe it’s not too late for all of you and they will come up with a solution before my time is up. LOL

  5. SS

    It is my understanding that head injuries are the cause and that there is no cure. Personally, mine seems much worse if unknowingly, I am subjected to salt. I have also noticed if I take aspirin occasionally for a headache, the ringing is much louder.

  6. Billy

    I am a musician and I have had tinnitus since a teenager. I wish it would go away but since there are no magic spells, the way I coexist with it is to pretend it is the result of angels playing high, sustained pitches on violins. As long as I don’t start talking to them, I think I will be fine ;-)
    However I would like the link to the German music research on this.

  7. TAO

    I am 22 years old about 5-6 months ago I started losing hearing in my right ear, then a sharp un-tuned radio sound came into my ear, I got an MRI to see if I had a brain tumor, waiting on the results.
    I hope that maybe in my lifetime there can be a cure found for this problem. It makes me feel better that others going through the same thing I am, are so supportive, and helpful.
    I still have so many questions but no one has answers. Is this problem ever going to go away? Will this problem shorten my life? And what can I do to help this problem? I hope that this problem does not get worse with age but I fear it does. If anyone out there can offer me some help please post a comment and let me know what to do next.

  8. GS

    Thanks for the info on getting an article from December issue of “NOTES”. Hope it helps.

  9. CJB

    Well, the deep breathing didn’t work for me!! Anything else I can try besides the temporary music thing?
    I’ve been ringing for years.

  10. Marcia O.

    I did not realize I had tinnitus for years — thought everyone heard similar sounds. Listening to the radio, especially while wearing a head-type radio, especially one tuned to public radio that plays classical or jazz music, eliminates the problems I had. Not taking pain medications, even after surgery, keeps the sharp noise level tolerable. Over the years I have experienced two shoulder surgeries, a broken leg, two carpal tunnel surgeries and about six minor foot surgeries to remove bone spurs using only a rare dose of tylenol for pain medication.
    I would rather have the pain in one place I know about and can deal with than have my ears sharply ringing and my stomach hurting. I assume my tinnitus developed from constant ear infections at ages 4-6 when my eardrums were lanced frequently for drainage before antibiotics were available.

  11. JKB

    What good is this information without saying how a person might get help from it?

  12. Gay S. - Vancouver, WA

    So . . . where/how do we access this specialized therapy?

  13. M

    I’ve had tinnitus for years. The December 2009 issue of “Notes” from the Acoustic Neuroma Association has a good article, “Tinnitus: Causes, Treatment.” In it is information about types of therapy, including “Tinnitus Retraining Therapy” and “Neuromonics.”
    Email to ask for a copy.

  14. jb

    I have noticed a improvement in the tinnitus when listening to music and also when I wear my hearing aids (which I do not care for).

  15. Darlene

    Periodically, I have slight ringing in my ears. The ringing happens in times of deep stress, anger or high emotions. When the ringing starts I quickly think….”breathe..breathe”….
    Years ago I read that ringing in the ears is caused from a lack of oxygen to the brain. This concentration on my breathing has been successful every time, hands down…the ringing stops in seconds of deep breathing. Try it.
    My mother has Alzheimer’s so I am very conscious of making sure I breath properly. I hope this helps. XXOOXX Love to all. Happy New Year.

  16. JAL

    I have this tinnitus also. I sometimes think it is related to the amount of water that I drink in a day’s time. Is that possible? (The more water I drink on a regular basis, the less tinnitus, it seems although it is cumulative in that it doesn’t happen immediately but rather over several days.) I have noticed that music helps, also.

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