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« Thread started on: Mar 22nd, 2007, 12:58pm »


Quieting Ringing Ears


ST. CHARLES, Mo. (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- Every second of every day, Joyce LaJeunesse has ringing in her right ear. "Just kind of a humming, like an electrical humming, and it's constant," she says.

The ringing, called tinnitus, came on suddenly five years ago.

"I truly did expect it to go away -- just figured it was something connected with the ear plugging up or something," LaJeunesse says, but it stuck around and now follows her everywhere.

"I hear it right now," she says.

With work, kids, traffic, and countless other noises we're bombarded with every day, it seems unfair to have a medical condition that keeps some people from getting any peace and quiet at all. Tinnitus is something sufferers could do without.

Otolaryngologist Jay Piccirillo, M.D., of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, says at least 50 million Americans have tinnitus. "There is no drug that we can give them. There is no surgery that we can do or device that we can put in the ear to cure the tinnitus."

But there is help for people with sleep problems as a result of their tinnitus. A new study shows melatonin lessens the ringing and significantly improves sleep.

"I would definitely think that patients with tinnitus who are having problems sleeping should consider melatonin," Dr. Piccirillo tells Ivanhoe.

Another small study shows injecting Botox around the ear might also help. Dr. Piccirillo is also studying a procedure called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) -- where a magnetic device stimulates certain areas in the brain. Early studies are promising.

LaJeunesse was in a study on melatonin to help the ringing and her sleep. "I had more energy in the mornings," she says. "I woke up more refreshed than I had been, and that was wonderful."

Dr. Piccirillo says other sufferers could easily get the same benefit, since melatonin is available over the counter. Though all three methods are showing success in helping lessen the ringing, he says there is still no cure for tinnitus. He says seeking help from a professional hearing expert is the best first step to take. Other medications, like anti-anxiety drugs, are also used for tinnitus with some success.

This article was reported by Ivanhoe.com, which offers Medical Alerts by e-mail every day of the week. To subscribe, click on: http://www.ivanhoe.com/newsalert/.

If you would like more information, please contact:

Judy Martin, Media Relations
Washington University School of Medicine
St. Louis, MO
(314) 286-0105

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