Q. I have positional vertigo and use the Epley maneuver for that. Will the Epley maneuver also help my tinnitus?
A. The Epley maneuver is a series of head movements that can help many people with positional vertigo—a condition that causes dizziness, including a feeling that you are spinning, tilting, off-balance, or about to pass out. This type of vertigo often arises from the inner ear, which is part of the body’s balance mechanism. Calcium specks (canaliths) can collect in the inner ear, causing vertigo. The Epley maneuver is intended to reposition these canaliths and diminish or eradicate vertigo. Most benign vertigo gets better with time, medications, the Epley maneuver, or a combination of all three.
Tinnitus, on the other hand, is a sensation of buzzing, ringing, or roaring in the ears. It can be pulsing or steady, and can range from an annoyance to a real impediment to everyday life. Like vertigo, tinnitus arises from the inner ear, but it is most often caused by damage to tiny hairs on the cells responsible for hearing (auditory cells). When damaged, these cells may send signals to your brain, producing a sound only you can hear. Tinnitus may occur as a result of normal age-related hearing loss, exposure to very loud noise, or a variety of hearing disorders.
The Epley maneuver will not worsen tinnitus, but it will not help. If tinnitus is associated with hearing loss, a hearing aid may improve your symptoms. A masking device can produce different sounds that may hide the tinnitus. Experts have studied behavioral therapies such as biofeedback, stress reduction, and hearing retraining for tinnitus, with mixed results.
— Celeste Robb-Nicholson, M.D.
Editor in Chief, Harvard Women’s Health Watch