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Study Offers New Hope for Managing Tinnitus

For the millions of Americans affected by tinnitus, there is now new hope for decreasing its severity and improving quality of life thanks to the release of findings from a recent study.

Experts estimate that tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is one of the most common health conditions in the United States. This often-frustrating condition is considered a symptom, rather than a disease, and it can also be triggered by many things including:

  • Exposure to loud noises
  • Age-related hearing loss
  • Fluid build-up in the middle ear
  • Head trauma
  • Ototoxic drugs
  • Underlying medical conditions such as high blood pressure

In some cases, tinnitus can be treated, but for many, it has become a permanent condition that can negatively impact well-being and quality of life. Those with tinnitus may be affected by anxiety, depression and, in severe cases, are unable to work or even perform daily tasks.

It’s for this reason that more and more research is now focusing on this common condition and how to alleviate its effects. The most recent research, out of the University of Michigan and published in Science Translational Medicine, studied an experimental device that targets nerve activity in the brain. The results are promising, showing a decrease in tinnitus loudness and reports of improved quality of life.

Susan Shore, a professor at the University of Michigan Medical School and head of the research team explained:

“The brain, and specifically the region of the brainstem called the dorsal cochlear nucleus, is the root of tinnitus. When the main neurons in this region, called fusiform cells, become hyperactive and synchronize with one another, the phantom signal is transmitted into other centers where perception occurs… If we can stop these signals, we can stop tinnitus. That is what our approach attempts to do, and we’re encouraged by these initial parallel results in animals and humans.”

For the trials, researchers used a combination of sounds and specially timed electrical impulses to reset the activity of the fusiform cells. Participants applied the device for 30 minutes per day for four weeks, with half of the participants receiving devices that delivered the electrical impulse and half that did not. They then switched to repeat the process for another four weeks. Participants did not know which device they received for each segment of the study. At the end of each period, individuals were surveyed on their tinnitus and perception of quality of life. According to the research findings, not only did the loudness of participants’ tinnitus decrease after the use of the device that delivered electrical impulses in addition to the sounds, but quality of life also improved for several weeks after the treatment.

This is not the first treatment offering hope for those suffering from tinnitus.  In recent years, studies have seen promising results from several strategies including sound therapy, meditation and more!

While this newest device is still in trials, the initial results from both animal and human tests are exciting to see and could mean the solution tinnitus-sufferers have been seeking is in the near future.

Do you suffer from ringing in the ears? If you haven’t already, schedule an evaluation with your hearing healthcare provider to rule out serious conditions, and discuss options to manage your tinnitus for a healthier, happier you.

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