tinnitus |ˈtinitəs, tiˈnī-|
ringing or buzzing in the ears.
Oxford American Dictionary
It was sometime during my 50s that I discovered I’d developed tinnitus. It happened at a cottage in Sauble Beach, Ontario, on Lake Huron. I had been sitting under a tree, reading and listening to bird song and the high-pitched buzzing of cicadas. After the mosquitoes began to find me, I went inside the cottage to continue my novel. To my surprise the cicadas were as loud as ever. It was then that I realized it wasn’t cicadas at all, but tinnitus — a ringing or buzzing in the ears that happens to many people as they age.
Tinnitus can arise from a number of causes and is frequently associated with hearing loss, as in my case. While there are a number of attempts to cure or reduce tinnitus, none of them have proven effective for most people. This may change in the near future.
A new treatment is being investigated at the University of Michigan: http://www.futurity.org/treatment-shows-promise-hushing-tinnitus/ :
[Dr.] Shore is now working with other students and postdoctoral fellows to develop a device that uses the new knowledge about the importance of signal timing to alleviate tinnitus. The device will combine sound and electrical stimulation of the face and neck in order to return to normal the neural activity in the auditory pathway.
“If we get the timing right, we believe we can decrease the firing rates of neurons at the tinnitus frequency, and target those with hyperactivity,” says Shore. She and her colleagues are also working to develop pharmacological manipulations that could enhance stimulus timed plasticity by changing specific molecular targets.
But, she notes, any treatment will likely have to be customized to each patient, and delivered on a regular basis. And some patients may be more likely to derive benefit than others.
It’s early days yet, but if the device developed by Dr. Shore and her associates proves effective, it may help me, and many other Boomers like me, who experience this often annoying condition.