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Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) for tinnitus

Nov. 02, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

"Scotty, we need more power!"

"I'm giving her all we've got, Captain. No, wait! We'll use transcranial magnetic stimulation!"

Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a potential treatment for tinnitus (it's approved for treating depression, but not yet for chronic ringing in the ears), and though it may sound like a device to make space travel more efficient -- a la "Star Trek" -- it's actually a noninvasive way to ease the chronic ringing and whooshing sounds that can fill one or both ears.

Anything that provides some quiet is a big relief. Tinnitus can range from bothersome to debilitating -- just ask the 50 million people in the U.S. who have it! (These days, half of all soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have tinnitus because of blasts from explosive devices.)

Treatments lasting 35-40 minutes are delivered via a magnetic coil placed next to the left side of the head. It sends short pulses of magnetic energy to the brain. There are no known negative side effects.

TMS has been studied for almost three decades. It offers about three months' worth of significant improvement for more than a third of people with newly diagnosed, severe tinnitus. Now Loyola University researchers are looking to see if TMS "treatments" offer double relief for the 12 percent of people with tinnitus who also have depression. (Stay tuned for that news!)

For more information about tinnitus and TMS, contact the American Tinnitus Association. Tell them Captain Kirk sent you; William Shatner is their national spokesman -- really!

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Medical Officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. For more information go to www.RealAge.com.