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