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MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — For about 10 to 15 percent of the world, ringing in the ears can be a persistent annoyance that disturbs even the most peaceful moment. An international study reveals a new treatment may finally end this ringing, better known as tinnitus. Researchers have created a system that doesn’t just focus on the ears, but shocks a patient’s tongue too.

In a large clinical trial combining sound and electrical stimulation, researchers find the innovative technique significantly reduces tinnitus. More importantly, the therapy produced sustained results for up to a year after the treatment.

The largest trial of its kind to date examined how the tinnitus treatment device called “Lenire” reduced ringing in the ears for 326 participants. The system, developed by Neuromod Devices, uses wireless headphones to deliver a series of audio tones layered with wideband noises to the ears. While this is happening, the patient inserts Neuromod’s “Tonguetip” into their mouth. This device provides stimulating pulses to 32 electrodes on the tip of the tongue.

Tinnitus Tongue treatment
The tinnitus treatment device used in the study, now branded as Lenire, was developed by Neuromod Devices and consists of wireless (Bluetooth) headphones that deliver sequences of audio tones layered with wideband noise to both ears, combined with electrical stimulation pulses delivered to 32 electrodes on the tip of the tongue by a proprietary device trademarked as Tonguetip. (Credit: Neuromod Devices Limited)

Patients can manage the timing and intensity of these pulses using a handheld controller. Before treatment, researchers also tailored the Lenire to each person’s specific hearing profile and sensitivity to electrical stimulation.

Buzzing out tinnitus

After 12 weeks of daily 60-minute treatments, the results reveal over 86 percent of the trial group experienced less tinnitus. Just over 80 percent of patients giving themselves the minimum amount of treatments had less ringing 12 months later. Researchers report that 77.8 percent of the trial said they’d recommend the treatment to others.

“This study tracked the post-treatment therapeutic effects for 12 months, which is a first for the tinnitus field in evaluating the long-term outcomes of a medical device approach,” Associate Professor Hubert Lim from the University of Minnesota says in a release. “The outcomes are very exciting and I look forward to continuing our work to develop a bimodal neuromodulation treatment to help as many tinnitus sufferers as possible.”

Lim is also chief scientific officer of Neuromod Devices, which partnered with researchers from the University of Minnesota, Trinity College, St. James’s Hospital, the University of Regensburg, and the University of Nottingham to conduct the study. The trials took place at testing sites in Ireland and Germany. Researchers add none of the patients experienced adverse effects from the 12-week treatment.

“There is a globally recognized clinical need for evidence-based treatments for tinnitus, such as Lenire, due to the lack of effective options for this debilitating condition. Neuromod is proud to be at the cutting edge of efforts to research and develop new solutions that can contribute to solving this chronic condition that affects 10-15% of the population worldwide,” Neuromod’s founder and CEO Dr. Ross O’Neill added in a media release.

The study appears in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

About Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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