AUCKLAND, New Zealand — After 20 years of research, scientists have created a “life-changing” new mobile phone therapy to stop tinnitus.
Researchers in New Zealand reduced the average time to gain control over the condition from 12 months to 12 weeks, by creating personalized treatment plans that let patients follow them with a range of digital tools. There is no pill that can cure tinnitus, which is a ringing noise in the ears that has defied conventional treatments for years.
“This is more significant than some of our earlier work and is likely to have a direct impact on future treatment of tinnitus,” says Associate Professor in Audiology Grant Searchfield in a university release.
“Earlier trials have found white noise, goal-based counselling, goal-oriented games and other technology-based therapies are effective for some people some of the time,” Searchfield adds. “This is quicker and more effective, taking 12 weeks rather than 12 months for more individuals to gain some control.”
“What this therapy does is essentially rewire the brain in a way that de-emphasizes the sound of the tinnitus to a background noise that has no meaning or relevance to the listener.”
2 in 3 patients saw an improvement in tinnitus symptoms
Dr. Searchfield and Dr. Phil Sanders, an audiology research fellow, found the results of the polytherapeutic prototype personally rewarding and exciting. The majority of patients noticed an improvement in their symptoms.
“Sixty-five percent of participants reported an improvement. For some people, it was life-changing – where tinnitus was taking over their lives and attention,” Dr. Sanders reports.
Dr. Searchfield says his research was inspired by his patients’ distress and no options for affective treatment.
“I wanted to make a difference,” Searchfield explains.
Many sufferers find it distressing, and it can lead to trouble sleeping, an inability to carry out daily tasks, and even depression. Now, the research team plans to refine the prototype and follow up with larger local and international trials in a mission to get FDA approval.
Dr. Searchfield says 31 of the 61 study participants had “clinically significant” improvements with the new polytherapeutic after just 12 weeks. The remaining 30, using a popular self-help app that produces white noise, didn’t see these improvements.
The findings are published in the journal Frontiers in Neurology.
South West News Service writer Pol Allingham contributed to this report.