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Can Cryotherapy Treat Tinnitus?

According to the Latin Dictionary, the noun tinnītǔs means “ringing, clanging, jangling.” In English, tinnitus names a condition colloquially known as “ringing in the ears.” To those that suffer from it, it may not be actual ringing. It can also sound like clicking, hissing, or roaring. Some tinnitus sufferers hear indistinct voices or music. The condition is not uncommon. The American Tinnitus Association says it affects about 15% of the population, and 30% of those consider it a “moderate” to “big” problem in their lives.

According to the redoubtable Wikipedia, “Tinnitus is not a disease but a symptom that can result from a number of underlying causes. One of the most common causes is noise-induced hearing loss. Other causes include ear infections, disease of the heart or blood vessels, Ménière’s disease, brain tumors, emotional stress, exposure to certain medications, a previous head injury, and earwax. It is more common in those with depression.”

As you might expect for a medical condition that results from so many different kinds of causes, there is no cure for it. If you have tinnitus and find it intolerable, however, there are treatment and management options. Most of these, according to the American Tinnitus Association, “address the attentional, emotional, and cognitive impact of tinnitus. They help patients live better, more fulfilling, and more productive lives, even if the perception of tinnitus remains.” The Association describes seven categories of these options:

    • General Wellness
    • Hearing Aids
    • Sound Therapies
    • Behavioral Therapies
    • Drug Therapies
    • TMJ Treatments
    • Experimental Therapies

Among the experimental therapies, the Association lists mostly methods of brain or nerve stimulation. How about whole-body cryotherapy (WBC)?

This is the most unexpected benefit I have ever come across for cryotherapy. A 2007 Polish study reported on tinnitus patients treated with WBC. The research involved 80 patients with tinnitus, who got 10 daily three-minute sessions of WBC (minus 148 degrees F) with a break at the weekend. After the cryotherapy, they received kinesitherapy for 45 minutes. Kinesitherapy is an individualized series of active or passive movements and massage. Their results included “complete elimination of tinnitus in 4 patients, decrease in their intensity in 47 patients, maintenance of the ailment on the same level in 13 people and slight increase of tinnitus in 16 patients. In audiometry we could observe… changes in frequency of tinnitus in 138 ears and changes in intensity of tinnitus in 91 ears. After treatment decrease of average hearing loss and average hearing damage were observed.”

It’s troubling that the WBC made the tinnitus worse in 16 patients, which is just about 27%. But given the wide variety of causes of the condition, it’s not surprising. On the other hand, nearly two-thirds of the patients (64%) enjoyed improvement, including 5% who were “cured.” Eventually, further research may determine who gets better and who doesn’t. Until then, if you have tinnitus and want to try whole-body cryotherapy, know that there is probably a better than even chance WBC can improve the condition, and there’s also a small risk it could make it a little worse.

You can book a whole-body cryotherapy session with Peak Recovery & Health Center here.

Image: “020: Ten Things I Hate (and Love) About Me (1 of 10)” by John Nakamura Remy, who suffers from tinnitus. Creative Commons license.