Imagine constant ringing in your years coupled with random phantom noises that happen at random and you may just scratch the surface of how bad having tinnitus really is. The medical condition affects millions of Americans, and in some cases, the symptoms can be so severe that it can cripple one’s life. There are a number of treatments that can alleviate the noises or that manage them, however, none of them offer long-term relief. A recent study published in the journal, Science Translational Medicine, may give people afflicted with tinnitus exactly what they were looking for.
In the study, researchers used a new device that generated “precisely timed sounds” in parallel with weak electrical pulses to suppress the ringing sounds associated with the condition. The two effects working in conjunction would reportedly activate touch-sensitive nerves, rendering damaged nerve cells back to normal.
“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,” said Susan Shore, a professor at the University of Michigan Medical School and lead researcher of the study.
All twenty participants who used the device every day for four weeks reported that their symptoms had decreased to the point where they could resume their lives. The results showed so much potential that the researchers eventually patented the device. Another group was exposed to a placebo in order for the researchers to tell if the primary treatment worked.
According to the scientists, the tech behind the device includes a bimodal auditory-somatosensory stimulation, which alternates between a faint electrical pulse and a sound played in the ears. The device does not cure tinnitus, however, it does alleviate the symptoms to the point where the person is able to ignore the condition. Development of the device for commercialization purposes is still underway.
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