If you’ve recently been diagnosed with tinnitus, or suspect that you are suffering with it, you need to be prepared to be regaled with scores of highly dubious ‘tinnitus remedies‘ deserving of the title quack medicine.

Practitioners of some of the more boastful branches of alternative medicine, who claim with scant evidence that they have the key to healthier living, have latterly added tinnitus to their lists. At the same time, there are treatments – on the fringe of conventional medicine – with credible testimonials from people with tinnitus, which warrant investigation.

Certainly it is not easy to make much progress in the partial defeat of tinnitus without accepting the psychological element in it. As it is a perceived noise, which others cannot hear, the processes of thought and sensations are heavily involved. It is therefore wrong to think of tinnitus as an ear-based affliction only, although the temptation to do so is great, as sounds and the hearing of them are fundamental to the ear. The outer ear, which is the part most of us see, and essentially collects the sounds being received, can be eliminated from investigations into the cause of tinnitus.

The middle ear is a fairly simple section, carrying sounds to the ear drum. Modem surgery can clear blockages and repair damage there. The inner ear, with the cochlea, reveals a vastly complicated world, however, with nerve connections to the part of the brain dealing with hearing. Damage through injury or ageing can play havoc with these micro-complex auditory pathways and is strongly suspected of being a cause of tinnitus. It is even thought that when certain signals fail to travel correctly or at all, the brain interprets their absence as a signal in itself and perversely creates Silencil sounds from what should be silence.

If physical malfunctions of the inner ear are suspected as the main tinnitus causes, they cannot be treated. Indeed, the medical world cannot offer much, compared with the triumphs of drugs and surgery in relieving or curing other conditions. This is usually a dismal discovery for the new sufferer, who may think that the wonders of science are bound to have some solution. Nor is there much to cheer him or her up when he learns of what is being done to provide tinnitus relief and to even find a cure. One in ten adults, and many children, suffer from it, but the combined resources of doctors’ surgeries, hospitals and research establishments have, by truly scandalous neglect, pushed tinnitus way down the list of priorities.

Now, gradually, tinnitus is edging its way towards more sympathetic understanding in medicine and, slowly, among the policy-makers and politicians whose decisions can direct resources to the subject. Changes in priorities amid competing claims for other disabilities and afflictions will take time, however. Sufferers should not just wait for better treatment and a commitment to greater scientific and medical research. The best advice is to act in the interim on their own behalf.

Tinnitus has many common consequences, some of which are likely to be suffered by anyone with all but the slightest sounds in the head. These can include insomnia and depression, both of which need a doctor’s advice. It is a terrible mistake to conclude that because these conditions are caused by incurable tinnitus, they are also somehow beyond treatment. Similarly, the stress and anxiety which can follow from head sounds do not have to be tolerated. Once banished the tinnitus will appear to be reduced.

Worst of all, perhaps, is the overwhelming feeling of social isolation which new and chronic sufferers may encounter. The sounds can build a barrier between the person hearing them and the rest of society, especially if there is also serious deafness. This leads to introspection which strengthens the disinclination to reach out to non-sufferers. As the real cause is hidden, others do not understand. There are many paths to establishing a comfortable link with the rest of the world, and it would be naive to point to one for everyone to follow.

Many sufferers show inspiringly what can be achieved if, as Hamlet mused, they ‘take arms against their sea of trouble