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Mobile phone therapy could treat tinnitus

September 13, 2022

Researchers at the University of Auckland are excited by ‘encouraging results’ from a clinical trial of a mobile phone-based therapy that could treat tinnitus.

Researchers are excited by 'encouraging results' from a clinical trial of a mobile phone-based therapy that could treat tinnitus.

Despite decades of investigation into the ailment, which causes a constant ringing or humming in one or both ears of around 20 per cent of the population, no cure exists for tinnitus.

The study randomized 61 patients to one of two treatments, the prototype of the new ‘digital polytherapeutic’ or a popular self-help app that produces white noise.

On average, the group with the polytherapeutic (31 people) showed clinically significant improvements at 12 weeks, while the other group (30 people) did not. The full results have just been published in Frontiers in Neurology.

Key to the new treatment is an initial assessment by an audiologist who develops a personalized treatment plan, combining a range of digital tools, based on the individual’s experience of tinnitus.

This new therapy rewires the brain to de-emphasize the sounds normally associated with tinnitus to a background noise that has no meaning or relevance to the listener.

Tinnitus is a phantom noise and, as its causes are complex, it has, so far, defied successful treatment.

While most people experience tinnitus or ringing in the ears at least on occasions, around five per cent experience it to a distressing degree. Impacts can include trouble sleeping, difficulty carrying out daily tasks and depression.

The next step will be to refine the prototype and proceed to larger local and international trials with a view to FDA approval.

The researchers hope the app will be clinically available in around six months.

Associate Professor in Audiology Grant Searchfield believes this new approach will be key in finding a cure for the ailment.

“This is more significant than some of our earlier work and is likely to have a direct impact on future treatment of tinnitus,” he said.

“Earlier trials have found white noise, goal-based counseling, goal-oriented games and other technology-based therapies are effective for some people some of the time.

“This is quicker and more effective, taking 12 weeks rather than 12 months for more individuals to gain some control.”

Read more: Hearing loss treatment hailed

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