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A promising treatment for tinnitus could help millions

A new treatment suggests relief for people with tinnitus

A new study suggests relief for people with tinnitus. (Pexels)
A new study suggests relief for people with tinnitus. (Pexels)

Tinnitus, described as buzzing, hissing, or ringing in the ears, affects around 749 million people worldwide, according to 2022 research published in the journal JAMA Neurology. The study also showed that approximately 14% of the world's population has experienced tinnitus, and more than 2% have severe tinnitus. However, there is a lack of treatment options. Now, a new study suggests relief may be possible.

A double-blind randomized clinical trial of a device aimed at silencing the phantom sounds of tinnitus conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan's Kresge Hearing Research Institute has shown promising results. The findings were published in JAMA Network Open.

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The study involved individuals with somatic tinnitus, a form of the condition wherein movements such as clenching the jaw, result in a noticeable change in pitch or loudness of experienced sounds, according University of Michigan’s Health Lab. About 70% of tinnitus sufferers have the somatic form.

The participants had to use a portable device developed and manufactured by in2being, LLC, for in-home use. The device was programmed considering each participant’s tinnitus spectrum, which was combined with electrical stimulation to form a bi-sensory stimulus, according to the statement. Every week, participants filled in the Tinnitus Functional Index, or TFI, and Tinnitus Handicap Inventory, or THI, which are questionnaires that measure the impact tinnitus has on their lives. Their tinnitus loudness was also assessed during this time.

The researchers found that when participants received the bi-sensory treatment, they consistently reported better quality of life, lower handicap scores and significant reductions in tinnitus loudness. More than 60% of participants also significantly reported a reduction in tinnitus symptoms after the six weeks of active treatment, according to Health Lab.

“This study paves the way for the use of personalized, bi-sensory stimulation as an effective treatment for tinnitus, providing hope for millions of tinnitus sufferers,” Susan Shore, PhD, Professor Emerita in Michigan Medicine’s Department of Otolaryngology and U-M’s Departments of Physiology and Biomedical Engineering said in the statement.

The findings are consistent with an earlier study by Shore's team, which demonstrated that the longer participants received active treatment, the greater the reduction in their tinnitus symptoms.

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