The therapy helps with tinnitus

Tinnitus - new therapy with neuromodulation

Almost everyone has a whistling or ringing in their ear for a short time now and then - such a background noise becomes excruciating when it does not go away at all: Chronic tinnitus is then called the diagnosis. The number of cases is increasing, especially among people of retirement age. Some tinnitus victims suffer massively, including sleep disorders and depression.

The phantom noises cannot be treated with medication, but behavioral therapy and neuro-music therapy have helped some patients. Researchers from Dublin and Regensburg have now presented a new treatment method in the journal "Science Translational".

Electric tongue impulses are said to activate new circuits in the brain

Bimodal neuromodulation The new approach is called: The tinnitus patients are played different noises via headphones. At the same time, the tip of the tongue is stimulated with light electrical impulses. To do this, you have to put a small device on your tongue. The stimuli in the mouth should, among other things, stimulate the trigeminal nerve. With a remote control tones and tongue impulses can be regulated.

This treatment is said, over time, to activate new circuits in the brain and mask the phantom noises of tinnitus. Scientists at the Tinnitus Center at the University of Regensburg and at St. James Hospital in Dublin tested this on 326 test subjects over a period of three years.

Study results sometimes confusing

According to the researchers, it is the largest and longest study on tinnitus ever. Subjects were asked to do the treatment at home for one hour a day for twelve weeks. The result is promising, but the numbers are a bit confusing:

78 percent of the test subjects would recommend the therapy to others. However, significantly fewer test participants report any personal benefit: only two thirds of the test subjects confirmed that the therapy had helped them.

The treatment has a positive effect even after months

After three months of treatment, the devices were collected again. Nevertheless, the positive effects lasted for many participants - often even for a whole year. Even those who did not participate every day could benefit: an effect was possible even with only 36 treatment hours per quarter.

It is not yet clear whether this is really a breakthrough in the treatment of chronic tinnitus.

Another study also showed positive effects of neurostimulation

And it is not the first attempt with bimodular neurostimulation for ear noises: Two years ago, researchers at the University of Michigan tested similar devices on 20 test subjects - but with an exactly opposite approach: instead of being superimposed by new stimuli, the US researchers tried to hit Susan Shore, the tinnitus phantom noise exactly and to play it from the outside.

If you combined these tones with a coordinated electrical impulse on the head or neck, the volume of the tinnitus could be reduced significantly. The new German-Irish study is now much more meaningful due to the higher number of participants.

Studies also have weaknesses

But it also has clear weaknesses: among other things, there was no control group - so it remains to be seen what role the placebo effect plays in the treatment.

The second objection: The study in Science Translational Medicine was commissioned by the manufacturer of the therapy device, the company Neuromod from Dublin. The Dutch psychologist Rilana Cima therefore calls for further experiments from independent researchers - only then can one think about the use on a broad basis.

Treatment so far only in a few places with expensive equipment

In Germany, treatment is currently possible in Frankfurt, Darmstadt, Hanover and Schweinfurt - however, the three-part stimulation device costs at least 2500 euros and must be individually set by specialists.

Those affected can also find help with tinnitus self-help.