In its most debilitating form, tinnitus can lead to difficulty sleeping and concentrating, anxiety, and even depression. Currently, treatments are only at the research stage. But a very promising new device has just proven itself, since it reduces these parasitic noises for nearly 67% of patients.
Scientists from Neuromod Devices Limited, working in partnership with an international team of researchers, have unveiled the encouraging results of a clinical trial, testing a non-invasive stimulation device to treat tinnitus. In an article published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, they describe more precisely the operation of this device.
Tinnitus: a very annoying phantom noise
Inserm defines tinnitus as “noises generated spontaneously in the auditory pathway, without coming from outside”. It can be whistling, of sizzling or from buzzing, occurring in one or both ears. According to the Health Insurance website, they often follow repeated acoustic trauma (too loud music, explosion…), or simply the aging of the ear.
In 80% of cases, they are associated with hearing impairment and, more specifically, hearing loss. Indeed, the brain tends to “reorganize itself in an attempt to compensate for this deficiency”, which can lead to “an aberrant functioning of the auditory cortex”, explains Inserm. These famous phantom sounds result.
Insomnia, anxiety, depression: tinnitus affects the quality of life
This condition can occur occasionally, but also be recurrent or persistent. In this case, it can cause great discomfort for the patient and considerably alter his quality of life. In fact, persistent tinnitus is often the cause of problems with falling asleep and insomnia, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, and even depression.
In May 2019, a study published in Jama Otolaryngology showed that tinnitus can, in the worst case, push the patient to suicide. Thus, among the 16,000 respondents who suffered from tinnitus, 2,404 declared having tried to end their life. This work also showed that the mental health burden associated with this disorder was greater among women than in men.
Research is still working on treatments
At present, there is no treatment known to permanently suppress tinnitus. Numerous avenues aimed at alleviating them are nevertheless explored by research, “with real hopes”, according to Inserm. These include sound therapy, stimulation of the pneumogastric nerve located in the neck, NMDA receptor antagonist drugs, injections of the AM-101 molecule, etc. during experimentation.
Latest innovation in treatment: a small device, called Soothe, which combines headphones and a small tongue that stimulates the tongue. And this one has shown great promise in reducing the amount of tinnitus in participants. We tell you what this new feature is on the next page.
Device reduces tinnitus in 67% of patients
Researchers from Neuromod Devices Limited conducted a double clinical trial in Ireland, to test their new Lenire device. The system consists of a headphones Bluetooth, which plays sounds specially designed to reduce the perception of phantom noise. But also a small device, the “Tonguetip”, which is introduced into the mouth and delivers tiny electrical impulses to the language. According to the researchers, this stimulation of the tongue forces the brain to divert attention from the ears.
In clinical trials, 326 participants were instructed to use the device for 60 minutes each day for 12 weeks. They were divided into three groups, with slight variation in treatment – in the type of sound used, the frequency of the electrical stimuli, and the delay between sound and stimulation.
81% of patients report a better quality of life
Each patient was then given a questionnaire to assess whether their symptoms had improved. They were also asked to evaluate the evolution of their symptoms every month for a year. Result: of all the participants, 83.7% of them followed the protocol perfectly and, among them, 66,5 % reported a decrease in symptoms tinnitus, up to a year later.
Otherwise, 81 % of these “good students” candidates observed positive improvements on their daily life: improved sleep and ability to concentrate, reduced levels of frustration and anxiety and, overall, better quality of life. These positive effects have persisted for at least un an after treatment for 77% of subjects.
Where can we find this promising device?
“The next step is brain imaging and animal experimentation, in order to really understand the changes in the brain, ”Hubert Lim, professor of biomedical engineering and otolaryngology at the University of Minnesota, co-author of the study.
Their promising device has recently been made available to some patients in Ireland et en Germany. The company is currently awaiting approval from the US authorities, in order to be able to sell it in the United States. Unfortunately, it is not yet available on the French market.
Frequency sound therapy: another proven solution
Fortunately, there are already proven solutions to reduce these parasitic noises, which affect no less than 10% of the population. The frequency sound therapy, in particular, has largely proven its worth, as explained to us by Dr. Philippe Barraqué, music therapist and author of Say stop to your tinnitus (ed. Guy Trédaniel), in a previous article.
This consists of listening to white noise or some pink noises, called “neuroacoustic”, several hours a day. For good effectiveness, however, you should try this solution for at least six months. By dint of hearing these masking sounds, the brain will eventually “deprogram” itself from tinnitus.
Do not hesitate, also, to couple this sound therapy with other remedies natural, such as biofeedback, meditation, digitopuncture, hypnosis or EMDR. And of course, the best medicine is always prevention. Also, avoid listening to your music too loud or regularly listening to concerts too close to the speakers and without hearing protection.