Relief from the ringing
A new device may be able to provide long-lasting relief from a common but vexing condition: tinnitus
Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is one of the most common health concerns in the United States, affecting up to a quarter of the population. For some, it’s a minor annoyance; for others, it’s a life-altering obstacle. And yet, despite its prevalence, especially in older adults, effective treatments are hard to come by.
Hubert Lim, Ph.D., a professor in the University of Minnesota Medical School and College of Science and Engineering, and his colleagues at Neuromod Devices are out to change that.
In the largest and longest clinical study of its kind, they showed that a device that combines calibrated audio tones and mild electrical stimulation pulses to the tongue can provide long-lasting relief from tinnitus. The goal, Lim says, is to enrich the brain with different sounds to help it ignore the tinnitus.
“By making your brain more sensitive to these other sounds, you’re actually making it less sensitive to or aware of the tinnitus,” he says. “This may then lead to the tinnitus being less bothersome or disruptive on a daily basis.”
In a recent study, more than 80% of compliant participants reported improvement in their symptom severity after 12 weeks of treatment and experienced sustained relief for a year after stopping treatment. A $500,000 gift will support a new clinical trial of the therapy, the first study of its kind in the United States, through the VA Health Care System.