Tinnitus, that annoying ringing or cricket sound in your ear, is one of the most challenging and common problems faced by patients and otologists (ear specialists) alike. There are thought to be a variety of causes, but the exact mechanism for tinnitus remains unclear.
While there is still no definitive cure for tinnitus, Dr. Paul Shea has developed a treatment in which a mixture of lidocaine (a nerve-blocking medication) and dexamethasone (a steroid, or anti-inflammatory medication) is injected into the ear for three consecutive days with the patient under sedation. The patient then lies quietly with the ear upwards for hours to let the medication soak into the inner ear. An IV bag containing the same two medications is also given each day.
Twenty-six patients who underwent this treatment were asked to fill out a questionnaire before and afterwards that is specifically designed to assess the effectiveness of treatments for tinnitus, the Tinnitus Functional Index. The questionnaire gives a score from 1 to 100, with higher numbers indicating more severe impairment from tinnitus.
88.5% of the patients had an improvement in their tinnitus after the treatment, with an average score before treatment of 75.7 and and average score after treatment of 49.5.
What is not yet known is how long the improvement lasts, and the results certainly vary considerably between individuals. The treatment is safe, however, unlikely to make someone worse, and can be repeated if necessary.
Dr. Paul Shea reiterates that while this treatment is not a cure for tinnitus, it does seem to help some patients. He feels that while the results of this project are preliminary, they are encouraging, and that the intratympanic route holds promise for better treatments in the future, as we gain more experience with this most challenging problem.
To schedule a consultation with Dr. Paul Shea to see if you might be a candidate for this treatment, please call (800) 477-SHEA.