Transcranial magnetic stimulation

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Treating tinnitus with transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS)

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (or TMS) is considered a valid solution for the treatment of tinnitus. It is a non-invasive therapy that offers significant benefits, acting directly on the mechanisms that cause the problem.

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is an auditory condition that consists in the perception of a noise, whistling or buzzing, which is not generated by an external source. It can affect only one ear, both, or more generally it can be located in the centre of the head. It is a very common disorder and approximately 15% of the adult population suffers from it.

Symptoms of tinnitus

The main symptom of tinnitus is the perception of a whistling, buzzing, hissing or beating sound. This disorder can be debilitating, impacting daily activities by making it difficult to focus, talk and sleep.

Causes of tinnitus

Tinnitus can stem from a variety of known causes and others yet to be identified. It ranges from hearing loss in older individuals and prolonged exposure to loud noises to the sustained use of ototoxic drugs and neck pain resulting from incorrect posture. Factors like elevated blood pressure during pregnancy and heightened glutamate levels during significant stress also contribute to the development of tinnitus.

Main types of tinnitus

There are different types of tinnitus:

  • Objective tinnitus affects a blood vessel near the ear and can be identified externally using a stethoscope. It is quite rare and often has a cardiovascular origin.  
  • Subjective tinnitus is perceived by the patient, but its origin is impossible to identify. It can be caused by damage to the hair cells or errors in information exchange along the nervous system. Subjective tinnitus is more prevalent. 
  • Acute tinnitus is a form of tinnitus that lasts no longer than three months. 
  • Chronic tinnitus, whether objective or subjective, is continuous and lasts more than three months, with varying intensity.  
  • Pulsatile tinnitus consists of the occasional perception of heartbeat sounds, and is categorised as objective tinnitus.

Ringing in ears after concerts or disco?

Tinnitus after a concert or disco is the result of excessive and prolonged exposure to particularly loud noises that damage the hair cells of the cochlea, the innermost part of the ear.

Learn more

What is TMS?

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive and non-pharmacological therapy that uses the magnetic field to stimulate or inhibit specific brain areas, proving to be effective for the treatment of many neurological conditions.

TMS and electromagnetic induction

TMS operates on the principle of electromagnetic induction, aiming to either stimulate or inhibit the neuronal activity of specific brain areas with the goal of restoring normal neuronal functions. More specifically, the machine generates a magnetic impulse that reaches the cerebral cortex, activating a current that affects the activity of neurons.

Different types of TMS

There are different types of TMS treatments:

  • Theta Burst Stimulation (TBS)
  • Theta Burst Multi Session Treatment (SNT)
  • Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (Deep TMS)
  • Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS)

This is the most adaptive therapy and it is used to treat many disorders, including tinnitus. It uses stimulation characterised by short magnetic pulses repeated at programmable time intervals. With TMS it’s possible to intervene on very specific areas, making it an ideal asset for precision care.

TMS and tinnitus

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is the first long-lasting neurological therapy capable of acting directly on the mechanisms responsible for tinnitus. Many studies have shown that thanks to TMS it is possible to reduce the activity of the brain areas that are responsible for the noise caused by tinnitus. 

TMS and other disorders

The different types of TMS can be used to treat several disorders. In 2008, TMS obtained approval for the treatment of Resistant Depression and, in 2018, for the treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. TMS also represents an effective treatment option for pathological addictions and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

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Frequently asked questions about TMS

How much does TMS cost?

The average cost of a TMS session is about £ 100. The complete treatment varies depending on the type and extent of the disorder. For a therapy of 30 sessions the average cost is around £ 3000.

Where to carry out TMS treatment?

Treatment can be carried out at hospitals, diagnostic centres, nursing homes and neurology clinics.

How does the treatment work?

During a TMS session, the doctor positions a coil on the patient's head. Using a stimulator, this coil generates a painless magnetic field that precisely targets specific brain structures. This magnetic influence acts on the electrical activity and plasticity of these structures, facilitating the alleviation of symptoms. Typically, a TMS session extends for 20 to 30 minutes, though the duration of individual treatments may vary based on the specific therapy. On average, a complete treatment cycle encompasses approximately 20 to 30 sessions.

How long do the effects of TMS last?

The benefits of the therapy may not be immediate and the timing may depend on each person. If they occur towards the end of the first cycle, it may be useful to extend the treatment in order to avoid relapses. After a cycle, most patients report medium to long term benefits.

What are the side effects of TMS?

TMS is a completely safe procedure and doesn’t cause any notable side effects. Some patients may experience at most a mild focal headache, which can be treated with a common over-the-counter analgesic.

Is TMS safe?

TMS is widely established as a safe procedure, with exceptions being noted for individuals with a history of epilepsy and those using pacemakers.

Why choose Amplifon?

By choosing Amplifon as your hearing care provider, you’re choosing to be cared and looked after by qualified and experienced Audiologists who can help change the way you listen to the world around you.

Other possible remedies for tinnitus

TMS aside, there is no one-size-fits-all therapy for tinnitus patients.

The most frequently used medications include:

  • antiarrhythmics
  • antihypertensives (when linked to blood pressure abnormalities)
  • low-dose antidepressants aimed at raising the excitability threshold of the nervous system involved in sound perception.

or natural remedies like:

  • Ginkgo biloba, known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties
  • Ballota, recognised for its sedative, anxiolytic, and relaxing effects.

Additionally, alternative approaches like sound therapy, aromatherapy, manual therapies, and cognitive-behavioral techniques such as mindfulness or yoga are valuable options.

How to prevent tinnitus?

To prevent tinnitus, it is essential to undergo regular hearing examinations, ensure proper ear hygiene through cleaning, use specialised headphones when noise surpasses a certain threshold, monitor blood pressure to maintain ideal levels, and refrain from prolonged use of earphones. Additionally, adopting a healthy lifestyle is often recommended, including moderating caffeine and alcohol intake, maintaining a nutritious diet, and incorporating regular exercise.

Have a look at out related contents

Learn more on how your hearing works, thanks to our experts contents. You can also have a look at our blog, with our lates news. 

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