Can you imagine have a ringing in your ears or noises that are so distracting you canâ€™t think or sleep? For approximately 30 million people in the United States, that is exactly what they have to go through on a regular basis, and it is destroying the quality of their life and those they love.
For about 4 million of those who suffer from tinnitus the condition is so severe that they have difficulty concentrating and sleeping. It is as if they are living in a constant noise level they canâ€™t turn off or even down. With tinnitus you hear sounds within your head, even though there are no outside sounds that others do not hear. The noise can be within one ear, both ears, or simply inside the head of the subject. It can be continuous or intermittent, and sometimes the simple movement of the head, shoulder, jaw or eye can set it off.
Researchers Dr. Jay Piccirillo and Dr. Harold Burton at Washington University Medical School in St. Louis have put together a â€œbrain gymâ€ that they have had good results with, and hope it will help to retrain the subjectsâ€™ brains to be able to tune out the noises, so they can become less intrusive in their lives. To date, no one has been able to eliminate the noises altogether.
Doctors Piccirillo and Burton call their program the â€œBrain Fitness Program,â€ and initially took subjects with tinnitus, documented their degree of tinnitus and neurological differences between normal individuals and those who had been diagnosed with mild to severe tinnitus. Twenty patients were sent to the â€œbrain gymâ€ and 16 remained to complete the program. Of the remaining 16, 13 (80%) found substantial relief from their tinnitus.
According to four of these finalists who were interviewed after the program was over, prior to the program they were being constantly annoyed by the disease, and most had reached a state of exhaustion and near-collapse due to lack of adequate sleep. All who suffered both mild and severe bouts of the disease suffered less frequent bouts after undergoing the training. All of the final subjects said they were better able to control their tinnitus by being able to put it out of their minds at will and able to get a good nightâ€™s sleep for the first time in ages.
Accordingly to Dr. Piccirillo, he did not believe the Brain Fitness Program training had consistently altered the tinnitus level, but what changed was how the patients perceived the noise and were able to put out of their minds the sounds as simple â€œmeaningless noiseâ€ and a simple distraction. The disease was not â€œcured,â€ but was controlled through mind training.
Those interviewed also described an improvement in their attention span, ability to listen, and increased memory and cognitive abilities after the training. These changes are important to the researchers because their studies of the brain showed clear and documented evidence of tinnitus-induced brain changes that were translated into accelerated cognitive loss.
Tinnitus is most often found in the aged, but it is not limited to them. If the results prove to hold true for larger demographics it is an important step in being able to utilize the mind to control the level of noise and distraction sufferers suffer through. If it canâ€™t be eliminated it can at least be controlled so subjects can get a good nightâ€™s sleep and improve their life.
Â The long-term effects of the Brain Fitness Program still have to be determined. It may be necessary to go to retraining periodically, but thatâ€™s a small price to pay to make such major changes in the quality of life.
This is Ron White, two-time USA Memory Champion
The Brain Connection: Promising results in controlling tinnitus with brain training: http://brainconnection.positscience.com/offsite/?offsite_url=http://merzenich.positscience.com/
Wikipedia â€“ Tinnitus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tinnitus