Medical

Ear-pinging, tongue-buzzing tech used to treat tinnitus

Ear-pinging, tongue-buzzing te...
A tinnitus patient tries out the Lenire system
A tinnitus patient tries out the Lenire system
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A diagram of the Lenire system
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A diagram of the Lenire system
A tinnitus patient tries out the Lenire system
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A tinnitus patient tries out the Lenire system

Tinnitus is an aggravating disorder, causing sufferers to constantly hear a ringing in their ears. A new system could help, though, by simultaneously zapping their tongue and delivering sounds to their ears.

Known as Lenire, the setup is made by Dublin, Ireland-based Neuromod Devices. It consists of a handheld control unit, a set of Bluetooth headphones, and a "Tonguetip" device that is placed in the mouth. While sounds emitted by the headphones stimulate the wearer's auditory nerve, electrodes on the Tonguetip stimulate the trigeminal nerve in the tip of their tongue.

Via a process called bimodal neuromodulation, in which two types of sensory input are stimulated at once, this procedure is claimed to retrain the misfiring neurons in the patient's auditory system. As a result, their tinnitus is reportedly diminished.

A diagram of the Lenire system
A diagram of the Lenire system

The system was recently the subject of a large clinical trial, conducted by Neuromod Devices staff working with colleagues from Germany's University of Regensburg, Britain's University of Nottingham, the University of Texas at Dallas, and Trinity College Dublin. In that trial, 326 patients with different types of tinnitus were instructed to use the Lenire system for 60 minutes a day over the course of 12 weeks.

After the treatment period was over, 86.2 percent of the test subjects (who successfully followed the routine) were found to have achieved "a statistically significant reduction in tinnitus symptom severity" – this assessment was based on the commonly used Tinnitus Handicap Inventory and Tinnitus Functional Index. The reduction persisted even 12 months later, and no unwanted side effects were reported.

Another clinical trial is now underway, to gauge the effects of altering the stimulation pattern over time.

The research is described in a paper that was recently published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Sources: American Association for the Advancement of Science via EurekAlert, Neuromod Devices

5 comments
Worzel
There's a school of thought that blames the plethora of wireless transmissions for some tinnitus. So maybe, a Faraday cloth/tinfoil hat would help? It cant be any more bizarre than this proposed ''cure''!

FabianLamaestra
There is absolutely no reason that this technology can't be made into a simple tongue electrode which plugs into a 3.5 mm audio jack, into a smartphone, with an app. The headphones can be connected via bluetooth.

First of all, there are hundreds of posts on the tinnitus forums about this device for several years. This device has promised a lot of things but it is almost impossible to get in the United States.

You essentially have to travel to Europe and spend thousands of dollars for them to even talk to you, and then if you do, you have to pass their stupid tests and maybe then they will allow you to use their device and hopefully it will actually work for you.

Instead, now that the device is proven to work for most people, they could easily sell a small electrode device to plug into a headphone jack, and offer this solution for less than a hundred bucks. But, that's not going to happen because they need to make their mountains of cash while people around the world suffer from this horrible disease.
paul314
How difficult are the sessions to complete? Whenever I see results reported in terms of people who completed a course of treatment successfully, I wonder how many people dropped out, and for what reason.
Bob Munck
So Lord Whorfin was right all along?
minivini
Damn - I wish I could’ve gotten in on that trial. I’ve been experiencing tinnitus since 1998 when I was working in a new home where an alarm system was being installed. Idiot installing the alarm kept triggering it while I was installing a window treatment six feet from the horn. The third time it triggered I almost vomited. I’ve had persistent ringing ever since.