New Device Can Help Quiet Tinnitus, That Ringing in Your Ears

Close-up of a businessman closing his ears with his fingers
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If you suffer tinnitus because you refused to wear ear plugs at a few loud rock and roll shows in the past, help might be on the way.

About 15% of people in the United States (even some celebrities) have to deal with tinnitus, a phantom ringing or noise in their ears. It can be brought on by circulatory system disorder, age-related hearing issues, ear injuries, or prolonged exposure to loud noise. Luckily, researchers at the University of Michigan believe they’ve found a way to bring those suffering relief.

The group published its findings in Science Translational Magazine. Researchers developed and tested a noninvasive treatment that would reverse the symptoms—without the sufferer having to go through brain surgery or other painful existing treatments.

Most chronic tinnitus suffering is caused by misfiring neurons in the brainstem, where one of the first steps in how our brain takes in outside sounds occurs. When they are interrupted, tinnitus can occur. The researchers patented a device that they tested on guinea pigs and then humans which they believe can help those misfiring neurons in tinnitus cases. The device would provide sounds and shocks intermittently. Subjects wore it for four weeks on and then had it off for four weeks. Those in the study group said it softened their symptoms and two people said they went away totally.

Next up the research group wants to test on a larger group of volunteers. (Any tinnitus sufferers looking for more information on the study can shoot an email to tinn.trial@umich.edu.)