Medical experts and researchers continue their quest to find the best treatment methods possible for tinnitus, or “ringing” in the ears. There are numerous treatment methods available to patients suffering from varying types and severity of tinnitus. While some of these treatment methods are widely known, others are still in the experimental phase without significant scientific backing. In some cases, treatment methods have helped patients eliminate their tinnitus, while others have at least helped with some of the symptoms for a period of time.
Current Available Treatments for Tinnitus
Steroids are used to treat multiple medical conditions and come in many different forms. Some steroids are taken orally while others are injected. Intratympanic steroid injections (ITSIs) are steroid injections that are injected into the inner ear. These injections are sometimes used when conventional steroids do not work. ITSIs are already used to treat sensory-neural hearing loss (SSNHL), and tinnitus is often a secondary condition associated with SSNHL.
Many people who suffer from tinnitus also suffer from depression. Because these two are sometimes linked, treatment of tinnitus with antidepressants has shown to be beneficial for some patients. It is possible that the beneficial effects of antidepressants to treat tinnitus have more to do with the treatment of the depression than the tinnitus, as the tinnitus may be secondary to the depression. However, given that tinnitus relief has been documented with the use of antidepressants, further study may reveal that antidepressants can treat tinnitus in individuals who may not suffer from depression.
Certain triggers of tinnitus increase the transmission of currents through N-methyl-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. As such, if given NMDA antagonists, some patients may find relief from tinnitus, essentially counter-acting the trigger of the tinnitus. There are different types of NMDA antagonists that have demonstrated success in treating tinnitus, including, but not limited to, acamprosate (also used to treat alcoholism), caroverine, memantine, neramexane, gacyclidine, and AM-101 (to be discussed further below).
AM-101 is an NMDA antagonist that is a hot topic today in the treatment of tinnitus. Clinical trials have shown that AM-101 injections into the inner ear have helped patients suffering from tinnitus and its associated symptoms. Depending on the type and severity of tinnitus, different AM-101 dosing regimens may be used from patient to patient.
Dopaminergic and Anti-Dopaminergic Drugs
Both dopaminergic and anti-dopaminergic drugs have been shown to be successful treatment methods for tinnitus in certain patients. Dopamine has an inhibitory effect which enables some dopaminergic and anti-dopaminergic drugs to stop some tinnitus symptoms.
Muscle relaxants do just that – relax muscles. These drugs calm the nerves to inhibit tension and excitability of the muscles. In addition to helping treat back pain, muscle spasms, and other musculoskeletal and neurological conditions, muscle relaxants have been used as a treatment method for tinnitus. However, studies are ongoing as it is still not clear how effect muscle relaxants are for treating tinnitus.
Melatonin, often used as a sleep aid, has had success in treating severe tinnitus in some patients. Melatonin in combination with other medications, such as a dopamine antagonist, can significantly help individuals suffering from tinnitus, and especially when such tinnitus keeps patients from sleeping at night.
Minerals such as zinc and magnesium have both been used to treat tinnitus, but like so many other treatment options, the success of minerals must be further studied. Many people suffering from tinnitus have a deficiency in certain vitamins and minerals. Therefore, by taking zinc or magnesium supplements, some have been able to eliminate tinnitus symptoms.
Other Treatment Options Still Under Development
Eutectic Mixture of Local Anesthetic (EMLA) Cream/Lidocaine Patch
Anesthetics are given to help stop the sensation or feeling of something. Local anesthetics are used in the dental setting to numb a tooth while dental work is being done. Nerve blocking agents are often used in orthopedic surgeries. Local anesthetics such as lidocaine have been used intravenously to treat tinnitus, but transdermal lidocaine patches have also shown to be beneficial. Eutectic mixture of local anesthetic (EMLA) cream is another treatment method where a cream is applied liberally to the area of the ear where tinnitus is experienced. Multiple clinical trials are ongoing regarding the use of these anesthetic treatment methods.
Study Drug AUT00063
AUT00063 is a potassium channel modulator that is currently undergoing a study to assess the drug’s effect on tinnitus. While animal studies provide hope that AUT00063 will be a viable treatment method for tinnitus, there is insufficient data at this time to assess the benefits of AUT00063 in humans. The outcome of the current studies will hopefully shed light on how effective AUT00063 is for the treatment of tinnitus.
Another new drug, OTO-311 is being studied in the clinical setting as a potential treatment method for tinnitus. OTO-311 is injected into the inner ear, starting out as a liquid, and then turning into a gel that sits within the ear. The study will help to determine whether or not OTO-311 may be a good treatment option for tinnitus.
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