New tinnitus treatment shows considerable promise

New tinnitus treatment shows considerable promise

Now hear this: A clinical trial of a mobile phone-based therapy has shown encouraging results for people with tinnitus [tih-nuh-tuhs].

Treating the chronic ringing or other phantom noises in one or both ears has been a longtime effort for a group of researchers in New Zealand. Now, they may be on the verge of a breakthrough.

During a clinical trial, a group of people were given one of two tinnitus treatments. Half of the group got a prototype of a new “digital polytherapeutic.” The other half used a popular self-help app that produces white noise.

After 12 weeks, the digital polytherapeutic group reported significant improvement in their tinnitus, while the other group did not. The new treatment is based on an audiologist’s assessment and uses an array of digital tools, including Bluetooth headphones, a neck-pillow speaker, messaging and app personalization.

The researchers say the consistency of results represents a major step forward: Existing treatment methods and technologies such as white noise help some people some of the time. The polytherapeutic approach is also more efficient, bringing relief to patients in 12 weeks instead of up to 12 months with other methods.

Currently, tinnitus has no cure and there are no effective medications. Its causes are complex and it can affect proper sleep and job effectiveness as well as lead to depression. Most people report occasional bouts of tinnitus but about 5% of all patients deem it to be distressing or disruptive to daily life.

Next, the scientists want to further refine their prototype and proceed to larger, international trials.

For tinnitus sufferers, hearing nothing may one day be the sweetest sound of all.

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