Breakthrough in Search for Tinnitus Cure

Summary: Study reports a new digital polytherapeutic that delivers white noise could significantly improve symptoms for those with tinnitus.

Source: University of Auckland

After 20 years searching for a cure for tinnitus, researchers at the University of Auckland are excited by ‘encouraging results’ from a clinical trial of a mobile-phone-based therapy.

The study randomised 61 patients to one of two treatments, the prototype of the new ‘digital polytherapeutic’ or a popular self-help app producing 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 results have just been published in Frontiers in Neurology.

“This is more significant than some of our earlier work and is likely to have a direct impact on future treatment of tinnitus,” Associate Professor in Audiology Grant Searchfield says.

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

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

There is no pill that can cure tinnitus. “What this therapy does is essentially rewire the brain in a way that de-emphasises the sound of the tinnitus to a background noise that has no meaning or relevance to the listener,” Dr Searchfield says.

Audiology research fellow Dr Phil Sanders says the results are exciting and he found running the trial personally rewarding.

This shows a drawing of an ear, a soundwave and a hand
Key to the new treatment is an initial assessment by an audiologist who develops the personalised treatment plan, combining a range of digital tools, based on the individual’s experience of tinnitus. Image is in the public domain

“Sixty-five percent of participants reported an improvement. For some people, it was life-changing – where tinnitus was taking over their lives and attention.”

Some people didn’t notice an improvement and their feedback will inform further personalisation, Dr Sanders says.

Tinnitus is a phantom noise and 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 percent experience it to a distressing degree. Impacts can include trouble sleeping, difficulty carrying out daily tasks and depression.

Dr Searchfield says seeing his patients’ distress and having no effective treatment to offer inspired his research. “I wanted to make a difference.”

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.

About this tinnitus research news

Author: Gilbert Wong
Source: University of Auckland
Contact: Gilbert Wong – University of Auckland
Image: The image is in the public domain

Original Research: Open access.
A randomized single-blind controlled trial of a prototype digital polytherapeutic for tinnitus” by Phil Sanders et al. Frontiers in Neurology


Abstract

A randomized single-blind controlled trial of a prototype digital polytherapeutic for tinnitus

Objective: This randomized single-blind controlled trial tested the hypothesis that a prototype digital therapeutic developed to provide goal-based counseling with personalized passive and active game-based sound therapy would provide superior tinnitus outcomes, and similar usability, to a popular passive sound therapy app over a 12 week trial period.

Methods: The digital therapeutic consisted of an app for iPhone or Android smartphone, Bluetooth bone conduction headphones, neck pillow speaker, and a cloud-based clinician dashboard to enable messaging and app personalization. The control app was a popular self-help passive sound therapy app called White Noise Lite (WN). The primary outcome measure was clinically meaningful change in Tinnitus Functional Index (TFI) between baseline and 12 weeks of therapy.

Secondary tinnitus measures were the TFI total score and subscales across sessions, rating scales and the Client Oriented Scale of Improvement in Tinnitus (COSIT). Usability of the US and WN interventions were assessed using the System Usability Scale (SUS) and the mHealth App Usability Questionnaire (MAUQ). Ninety-eight participants who were smartphone app users and had chronic moderate-severe tinnitus (>6 months, TFI score > 40) were enrolled and were randomly allocated to one of the intervention groups. Thirty-one participants in the USL group and 30 in the WN group completed 12 weeks of trial.

Results: Mean changes in TFI for the USL group at 6 (16.36, SD 17.96) and 12 weeks (17.83 points, SD 19.87) were clinically meaningful (>13 points reduction), the mean change in WN scores were not clinically meaningful (6 weeks 10.77, SD 18.53; 12 weeks 10.12 points, SD 21.36). A statistically higher proportion of USL participants achieved meaningful TFI change at 6 weeks (55%) and 12 weeks (65%) than the WN group at 6 weeks (33%) and 12 weeks (43%). Mean TFI, rating and COSIT scores favored the US group but were not statistically different from WN. Usability measures were similar for both groups.

Conclusions: The USL group demonstrated a higher proportion of responders than the WN group. The usability of the USL therapeutic was similar to the established WN app. The digital polytherapeutic demonstrated significant benefit for tinnitus reduction supporting further development.

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  1. Please include us on any testing. My husband has ringing and hearing aids only increase issues. He is very depressed. He also has Alzheimer’s

    Thank you

  2. Please include us on any testing. My husband has ringing and hearing aids only increase issues. He is very depressed. He also has Alzheimer’s

    Thank you

  3. I was diagnosed with Tinnitus 18 years ago. While it is in both ears, the right ear is the loudest. I am having difficulty sleeping, but have not attributed it to the constant ringing in my ears. I am not currently doing anything to alleviate the problem, just living with it like everyone else. I, too would love to be considered for the next trial.

  4. My wife has suffered from severe Tinnitus for many years. I would love to see her quality of life return to a normal state and know what it means to be in silence. Please let me know if there would be anything available to help her.
    Thank You

  5. I’ve had moderate, steady tinnitus in both “ears” for the past 15 years. High pitched jet engine noise, seemed to start after chemo treatments for a blood cancer. The cancer is gone but the tinnitus remained and is ever present and annoying. Often can’t hear weak signals on my ham radios. I also live in Japan which makes getting good English help extremely difficult. The Japanese are not far advanced on tinnitus treatments and most doctors don’t even know what it is. How can I get involved with this program? Thanks!

  6. I’M 26 living with tinnitus foe over 13 years. Id love to join the group trail and I hope to god a change will be found

  7. Tinnitus should be declared a medical disability because nothing can be done about it. Those of us who suffer with it know how horrible it is. It’s a wonder we don’t all go insane from the noise.

  8. 40+ years with tinnitus has be annoying at best. But ever since my Covid-19 booster the ringing has been off the chart and is truly maddening. Please keep me updated

  9. I’m 71 and have suffered ever since I can remember … a high-pitched, off-key choir of fingernails on a blackboard. Can you help?

  10. Dealing with this problem also, very depressing after having to also deal with PTSD. Consider me to participate in the study.

  11. I’d be very interested in participating. When Ilived n Italy I was recommended to try meditation which had no effect. Back in the UK I was given hearing aids with the magical effect that birdsong became audible and my long-term tinnitus less so.

  12. My family is a (possible) tinnitus study waiting to happen. My mother, one of my brothers and myself, all have had tinnitus (and the trait of beta-thalassemia) our entire lives.

    I look forward to seeing how the next phase of this study progresses and hope there is an effective therapy in my future.

  13. I also have tinnitus for 50 or more years, when it was the sound of cicadas in background it was tolerable but for the last year or so it has changed to louder ringing or buzzing,I also would like to participate in something that would at least calm this sound.

  14. I also have tinnitus for 50 or more years, when it was the sound of cicadas in background it was tolerable but for the last year or so it has changed to louder ringing or buzzing,I also would like to participate in something that would at least calm this sound.

    1. I am 79 years young and spent all my working life in VERY noisy conditions I have had tinnitus for 60 years I would love to participate in your program

  15. I never thought about how long I have had it, but know my sister has had it since she was a little girl. We are now in our seventies,

    I have taken “Ring Ease: when I have it so badly at number 12 – 13 that dogs would act up from hearing it.

    I am presently down to a number ! or 2 from taking Gummy bears CBD, I think called “Ring Hush.” I am currently out of it about a month ago, .

    I would love to be a volunteer to take whatever it is you offer for “tinnitus” as long as it is safe and I’m not allergic to anything in it.

    My husband has passed away on June 15, 2022., and I can’t afford to try anything else,

    Thank you

  16. I never thought about how long I have had it, but know my sister has had it since she was a little girl. We are now in our seventies,

    I have taken “Ring Ease: when I have it so badly at number 12 – 13 that dogs would act up from hearing it.

    I am presently down to a number ! or 2 from taking Gummy bears CBD, I think called “Ring Hush.” I am currently out of it about a month ago, .

    I would love to be a volunteer to take whatever it is you offer for “tinnitus” as long as it is safe and I’m not allergic to anything in it.

    My husband has passed away on June 15, 2022., and I can’t afford to try anything else,

    Thank you

  17. I’m 65 years old and have had tinnitus for 40 years from running heavy equipment but it started when I had a truck tire explode 6 inches from my head, I’ve been to specialists, had lengthy mri brain scans, tried ears drops with no success. I’d like to be considered to participate in any study available.

  18. I would love to get rid of my tinnitus! Although I have only had it for about 2 years, my life has truly changed. I need help!

    1. Yes i need help too ! Im a heavy equipment operator ringing all the time! any help would be appreciated

  19. Encouraging news….cautiously optimistic!
    If they need volunteers for a clinical trial in the US, please sign me up or forward my name….if possible.
    Thanks
    Marty Wacks
    Long Beach, CA

    1. I would very much like to participate in any study that can possibly help me. I’ve had it since I was 8 or 9 that I know of and now I’m 72

  20. I will be interested in participating in this trial experiment when it becomes available. I have sufferd from tinnitus for 16 years.

  21. I’ve had tinnitus for awhile, and belive it or not, I found a background sound effect on a TV show was a near exact match for what I hear.

    I recorded it, scrubbed some voice sounds, and listen to it as needed to ‘cancel’ out the noise. Listening for 5 min cancels most of the noise for 10-20 min.

    Was fairly recent, and it drives my cats nuts, still tweeking it.

  22. I’ve had ‘ringing’ in my ears for over 50 years and just learned to live with it to the point where sometimes I never noticed it. In the last 10 years the noise has changed into much louder crickets and cicadas, and now I also hear music and words. I’ve never been seen by a professional for this and I am wondering if this is a normal progression?

  23. I would be thrilled to be part of the international trial when it launches – I’ve had tinitis in both ears for around 14 years.

  24. I have been challenged with Tinnitus for many decades and last night it was extremely loud, I practiced the Yogic Technique Volume Rhythmic (TVR) breathing to fall asleep.

    I will love to participate in this experiment.

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