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Recent Research and News

Rebooting the Brain Helps Stop the Ring of Tinnitus in Rats

NIH-funded researchers were able to eliminate tinnitus in a group of rats by stimulating a nerve in the neck while simultaneously playing a variety of sound tones over an extended period of time, says a study published in the advance online publication of the journal Nature. The hallmark of tinnitus is often a persistent ringing in the ears that is annoying for some, debilitating for others, and currently incurable. Similar to pressing a reset button in the brain, this new therapy was found to help retrain the part of the brain that interprets sound so that errant neurons reverted back to their original state and the ringing disappeared. The research was conducted by scientists from the University of Texas at Dallas and MicroTransponder Inc., in Dallas, and funded in large part by the NIDCD.

Nearly 23 million American adults suffer from tinnitus, and some people experience it as a symptom resulting from hearing loss. Current treatments for this disorder generally involve masking the sound or learning to ignore it. This new study used a technique called vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), which is currently used to treat roughly 50,000 people with epilepsy or depression. MicroTransponder hopes to conduct a pilot clinical study in tinnitus patients using VNS with paired tones in Europe in the near future.

Read more about this research on the NIDCD website, read the abstract on PubMed, or learn more about tinnitus.