Medically called tinnitus, “ringing in the ears” may be treated with magnetic pulses according to a new study published by a medical centre and university in Oregon. The condition is known to affect 1 in 5 people due to age-related issues, nerve damage, depression and ear injuries.
The name could be a bit misleading and underestimating the condition, as people affected by tinnitus hear a persistent, constant noise that may be ringing, as well as crackling, buzzing, hissing or even whistling. It interferes with their daily lives, causing problems in concentration and difficulty sleeping.
So far, there is no permanent cure, but there are mild treatments available and patients are sometimes forced to use their own coping mechanisms, which can be disabling to their every day routines. Around 20% of patients suffering from chronic tinnitus have reported nearly crippling effects of their condition.
However, researchers found that using repeated transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) reduces the severity of the symptoms with excellent results. Over half of the participants have reported improvements after following a short, pain-free regiment.
The study saw to 64 participants, split down the middle in two groups, one that would receive proper therapy with TMS and the other would be studied for the placebo effect. It implied a treatment of one pulse per second of a 35-minute long session over a period of 10 work days. The results were observed after 1 to 26 weeks after the last TMS treatment in order to assess for how long it was efficient and determine possible side effects.
Out of the 32 receiving the genuine treatment, 56% experienced a significant improvement while only 22% of the placebo group reported the same. Studies on tinnitus have observed that the condition affects activity in the auditory cortex region of the brain, and the low-frequency TMS treatment reduces it in the targeted area.
By lowering activity in the specific part of the brain affected by the condition, the symptoms themselves are dampened, and participants have claimed a 31% improvement even 26 weeks after their latest session.
The side effects might include eye twitching or inadvertent jaw movement, but researchers reassure that they can be amended by lowering the frequency of treatment.
It could prove to be the best, most efficient solution for those suffering from tinnitus, as it is so far the only method to reduce or even stop the volume of the persistent noise that can be very disturbing to the every day life of the patient.