New Therapy Rings the Changes for Tinnitus Sufferers

March 19, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
man keeps his ears shut
About seven million people in the UK have experienced tinnitus, a ringing or buzzing in the ears. (photos.com)

A new form of sound therapy could eliminate the irritating symptoms of tinnitus, a study has shown.

The treatment, now available in the UK, addresses the cause rather than merely masking the symptoms. Called Acoustic Co-ordinated Reset (CR) Neuromodulation, it delivers tones through in-ear headphones that match the perceived sounds of the individual person’s tinnitus to stop the brain creating the irritating noise.

Seven out of 10 patients in a recently completed clinical trial experienced a significant reduction in the symptoms of tinnitus. 

Lead researcher professor Peter Tass, director of the Institute for Neurosciences and Medicine at the Jülich Research Centre in Germany, said in a statement that patients showed a “significant and clinically relevant decrease” in tinnitus.

Acoustic CR Neuromodulation treatment requires patients to wear the specially designed headphones for up to six hours a day, with treatment lasting from six months to one year. 

Current treatments involve environmental sound therapy to distract the brain’s focus away from the tinnitus.

Tinnitus, the perception of ringing, buzzing, or roaring in the ears in the absence of external sounds, is caused by overactivity in the auditory part of the brain. 

Ten per cent of people of all ages in the UK suffer from mild tinnitus, according to the British Tinnitus Association. A spokesperson commented on their website, “The results of this exploratory first trial are interesting and encouraging.”

Retiree Peter Humphries, a 20-year tinnitus sufferer, said in a statement that he experienced positive changes within two weeks of starting the therapy. “Since starting the treatment my tinnitus has gradually and consistently changed in both volume and pitch. The tone has decreased and now I hear little or no sound.”

The treatment is now available for private patients at the Harley Street’s audiology centre, The Tinnitus Clinic, at a cost of £4,500. 

Mark Williams, principal audiologist, says on the clinic’s website, “CR stimulation was initially developed in order to reduce neural synchrony in neurological disorders, like Parkinson’s disease, via deep brain electrode stimulation.” 

The clinic is funding a larger UK trial and it is hoped that the treatment will be available on the NHS in the future, according to The Telegraph.

The results of the German study, published in the journal Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience were presented on Tuesday at a conference at the British Medical Association in London.