In the United States, there are around 50 million people suffering from tinnitus. Globally there are millions more. Tinnitus is a ringing in your ears, usually caused from listening to loud noises, such as music at a concert or too high a volume on your earphones. For approximately 4 million of them the condition is so severe that it makes it difficult to get a good night’s sleep, and has a big effect on their ability to learn and remember — and it literally makes them feel like they are going crazy!
A person suffering from tinnitus can hear sounds others can’t hear. It can happen in both ears or just one. It could also simply be inside your head and not your ears. Those who suffer from it usually describe it as a buzzing, ringing or high-pitched whining. The noise can be continuous, or off and on. There are some sufferers can change the level of intensity by moving their head, jaws, tongue, shoulders or rolling their eyes.
Washington University Medical School researchers in St. Louis are experimenting with ways to retrain the brain to stop the sounds. Their program is called the “Brain Fitness Program,” and they sent 20 patients to their “brain gym” to get relief. They documented the degree of tinnitus and neurological differences between normal individuals and patients with mild to severe tinnitus in order to work out a program. Out of the 20 subjects, 16 stayed with the program long enough to complete it, and 13 of these found “substantial” relief for their tinnitus.
Drs. Jay Piccirillo and Harold Burton measured the ringing or noise volumes in each patient. According to Dr. Piccirillo, he does not believe the tinnitus level had been consistently altered in the patients by the Brain Fitness Program training. What he thinks has changed is the frequency is which it occurs so it does not disturb them as often or as loudly. He said that, after training the patients found it easier to ignore the noises, so instead of the tinnitus being a problem it could be classified as “meaningless noise” and simply a distraction.
Four of the patients who completed the course at WU said they were previously constantly annoyed by the disease, and had even reached the state of exhaustion and near-collapse due to lack of sleep. After undergoing the treatment even those with severe tinnitus experienced substantially less frequent bouts. ALL of those who completed the course said they were able to control the noises better by put it out of their minds when they wanted to, allowing them to get better rest.
Of the four who were interviewed, three of them also found improvement in listening and language skills, concentration, and memory and cognitive skills after the treatment.
The researchers noted these changes were important because their work with brain activity showed distinctive evidence that there are brain changes due to tinnitus, especially in the area of accelerated memory loss. If their research helps to alleviate those suffering by retraining the brain it is possible the Brain Fitness Program can be helpful in other areas of brain training to improve memory loss and other brain functions.
About the author:
Ron White is a two-time U.S.A. Memory Champion and memory training expert. As a memory keynote speaker he travels the world to speak before large groups or small company seminars, demonstrating his memory skills and teaching others how to improve their memory, and how important a good memory is in all phases of your life. His CDs and memory products are also available online at BrainAthlete.com.
The Brain Connection: Promising results in controlling tinnitus with brain training: http://brainconnection.positscience.com/offsite/?offsite_url=http://merzenich.positscience.com/
Wikipedia — Tinnitus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tinnitus