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Drs. Roizen and Oz: Brain training among options to treat tinnitus

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Monday, February 20, 2017 03:42 am
Q: Lately, my ears have been ringing so loudly at night that I have trouble sleeping. During the day it's very distracting. I have tried several treatments to no avail. Will anything help? — Steven M., Los Gatos, Calif. A: There are new treatments, Steven, that show a lot of promise, and you're not alone. Roughly 50 million people know just how irritating tinnitus — the frequent or constant perception of a ringing, whooshing or hissing sound that's not coming from an external source — can be. Twenty million Americans find it a burden, and it's debilitating for 2 million, according to the American Tinnitus Association. Often, the sounds interfere with sleep, learning, memory and attention.

Up to now, treatment has included a wide range of hit-or-miss techniques:

• Getting a hearing aid may ease symptoms. Tinnitus sometimes is associated with hearing loss, and researchers speculate that as hearing ability declines, the brain makes changes to neurons that process sound, and that triggers tinnitus.

• Behavioral therapies that change your reaction to the constant din also can help lessen tinnitus-related distress (much like such therapy helps people deal with chronic pain).

• Brain training is perhaps the most intriguing approach. Using external sound to distract a person from the internal noise or calming tinnitus-related neural hyperactivity sometimes is effective. Now the newly devised Brain Fitness Program-Tinnitus hopes to take it a step further.

The eight-week program, designed by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine, uses the brain's ability to change how it approaches thinking and memory skills (brain scans showed the changes), and then strengthens them so that they can overpower distraction from tinnitus! Fifty percent of those who completed the program reported improvements in their tinnitus, memory, attention and concentration.

The study used a memory-strengthening program from www.brainhq.com; there are others online that may help, too. Give it a try.

Q: I am pregnant and don't understand the new recommendations about eating fish. Can you explain them? I am scared about what mercury can do to me and the baby! — Kaylee H., Tampa, Fla.

A: The Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration have gotten together and (finally) put out a clear summary of their recommendations about eating fish, especially for pregnant and breastfeeding women. It extends the longstanding recommendation that women 16 to 49 and those who are pregnant or breastfeeding eat 8 to 12 ounces of fish (we'll detail the kinds of fish below) in two to three 4-ounce servings per week. This is for women weighing 165 pounds or more. If you weigh less than that you should reduce your consumption, advises the FDA.

Fish supply essential nutrients like omega-3s, selenium, zinc, iodine, iron and other minerals, high-quality protein, B vitamins and, from oily fish, vitamins A and D. Those nutrients help fetus, mom and baby stay healthy.

Plus, your body can naturally and safely clear a certain amount of methylmercury, although it can take several months. Excess levels of mercury can be harmful to the brain and nervous system of fetus, child and, in larger doses, mom. If the thought of fish is too much (whether you're pregnant or not, but of childbearing age), make sure you take a prenatal vitamin along with 200 mg of algal omega-3 DHA a day.

The basic guidelines are as follows:

Do not eat swordfish, King mackerel, orange roughy, shark, tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, and bigeye tuna (it's on the list of overfished seafood anyway, and should be spared).

Once a week, you can have any of 19 varieties of fish that includes albacore tuna, grouper and snapper.

Enjoy two to three times a week, salmon, black sea bass, cod, flounder, haddock, shrimp, scallops, sole, squid, light tuna (canned) and 27 other varieties (great selection!). Always mix it up; don't repeatedly eat the same kind of fish.

For your own digital copy of the recommendations, access to their FAQs and the complete listing of good-and-good-for-you fish, go to www.fda.gov and search for "Fish Advice." 



Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Dr. Mike Roizen is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to youdocsdaily@sharecare.com.


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