Can Cochlear Implants Cure Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is categorized as an auditory condition wherein a person hears or perceives that he hears a buzzing or ringing sensation despite the absence of a real external noise. Tinnitus is often associated as an age-related illness or it can be traced as an effect to frequent exposure to loud, boisterous noises. Other known causes for tinnitus could be as a side effect for prescription or over-the-counter medications, abnormal growth within the middle or the inner ear, or it can be a symptom of an underlying and a more serious condition.
Tinnitus relief can be achieved in a variety of ways although there is still no specified cure for the condition. One of these treatment methods that patients can consider is to get cochlear implants. Cochlear implant utilizes an electronic device that stimulates the cells in the auditory nerved in order to produce sound waves that a person with hearing impairment will be able to detect. Cochlear implants are composed of external and internal parts. The external component of a cochlear implant consists of a microphone and a word processor which is connected to a coil which transmits the sound waves to the ear. The internal component, on the other hand, has a stimulator package which receives the sound waves and translates it as electrical signals. The transmitted signal stimulates the cells in the inner fibers of the auditory system.
Cochlear implants are typically used to provide relief for hearing loss as it produces the sensation of hearing. In cases of tinnitus, cochlear implants are also known to be beneficial. According to a study conducted on six patients who were fitted with the device, the occurrence of tinnitus was suppressed during the periods of stimulation. Additionally, four of six patients observed a reduced loudness of their tinnitus when the device was used on its own. Cochlear implant device, when combined with noise input in the processor, was noted to have successfully suppressed the occurrence of tinnitus among five of six patients. Although cochlear implants are often prescribed among patients with unilateral tinnitus, patients with bilateral tinnitus also found relief as the stimulation of one-ear tinnitus can also lead to suppression of tinnitus when it occurs on both ears.
Apart from that test, another well-known study on cochlear implants for tinnitus relief was also performed in Sao Paulo Brazil during the periods of 2003 to 2005 and in this study 29 adults were involved, all of which have undergone the same hearing condition and received a cochlear implant surgery. According to the study, 21 individuals from the control group were found to exhibit symptoms of tinnitus. Fourteen of the 21 individuals had bilateral tinnitus while the remaining seven patients had unilateral tinnitus. After the activation of their cochlear implants, all patients with unilateral cases experienced relief from the condition and noted that the symptoms were eliminated. Eight patients out of the 14 bilateral cases observed a reduced occurrence in their tinnitus condition. Three patients noted that their condition remained the same while three more patients complained that the cochlear implants actually aggravated their tinnitus. A remarkable observation also showed that one of the patients developed the condition after the device was implanted.
Based on these statistics, there is so much potential in terms of employing cochlear implants as a treatment method for tinnitus. Following this medical research performed in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the study was forwarded to the medical laboratories in the United States in order to further develop the research.