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Will There Be Help for Tinnitus in the Future?

A new bimodal device may offer help for tinnitus. Stimulating touch-sensitive nerves with electrical pulses and acoustic nerves with sound seems to work.

Tinnitus, the perception of constant noise that no one else can hear, is a common affliction without a cure. But research offers hope that there will be help for tinnitus not too far in the future. That would be welcome news indeed for the millions who suffer with tinnitus. This condition can have a very negative effect on quality of life.

Help for Tinnitus:

Scientists are developing a device that may be able to quiet the sounds that many describe as ringing, humming, buzzing, chirping, crickets or static (Marks et al, Science Translational Medicine, Jan. 3, 2018). Tests have been conducted in guinea pigs and produced behavioral and physiological evidence of a reduction in tinnitus. A preliminary study in 20 patients with tinnitus also appears promising.

Bimodal Stimulation:

The new device uses two modalities: sounds and weak electrical pulses delivered through electrodes on the skin. The electrical pulses are aimed at touch-sensitive nerves. Precise coordination of both modalities is essential.

After four weeks of using the device for half an hour every day, many of the volunteers reported that their tinnitus sounds were not as loud and much less bothersome. Two of the 20 reported that their tinnitus had essentially disappeared.

The control treatment using sound alone did not effect any change in the symptoms. In conclusion, the treatment is not yet ready for clinical application, but researchers are recruiting for a clinical trial in 2018.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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