People who suffer from tinnitus, a ringing in the ears, may have a new treatment. A new study suggests that transcranial magnetic simulation (TMS) is capable of relieving “ringing” symptoms and may become part of existing therapies.
A persistent ringing or “phantom” sound is often experienced by those suffering from hearing loss or who have had excessive noise exposure—such as being near an explosion. The damage to the ear and other elements of the auditory system often results in tinnitus.
TMS treatments consist of placing an electrical coil on the patient’s scalp. A controlled current is run through the coil to produce a magnetic field that stimulates nearby brain cells. Patients with tinnitus show increased brain activity in regions associated with hearing, even when in otherwise silent conditions. A once-per-second magnetic pulse has shown to be capable of suppressing activity in these portions of the brain.
The study examined 64 patients with significant cases of tinnitus, who received TMS treatments over a 10-day period, and tracked their progress over the following six months. At the end of this period, 66% of the TMS group had both shown and retained improvements in their condition. Among the control group (who received no TMS treatment, but were told they had), the rate was 38%.
Current methods to treat tinnitus are the use of hearing aids or more focused symptom management practices.
Robert Folmer of Oregon Health and Science University, one of the authors of the study, does not believe TMS can replace these methods. He does, however, see it as a useful complementary treatment that can provide an alternative option for those unsatisfied by their current treatment.
A prior study at Washington University showed that TMS had no effect on tinnitus. The discrepancies between the two suggest more research is needed, but that for now, it looks like a promising avenue of investigation.
TMS is currently mostly used for treating clinical depression. It has few side effects save for jaw or muscle twitches that are corrected by reducing the intensity of the pulses.
Source for Today’s Article:
“Magnetic Pulses May Ease Ringing in the Ears,” Reuters web site, July 16, 2015; http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/07/16/us-health-hearing-tinnitus-idUSKCN0PQ2I520150716.