This new device may be able to stop ringing in the ears, study says

Do you hear ringing in your ears? There may be a device to help combat the issue, according to a new report.

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Researchers from the University of Michigan recently conducted an experiment, published in Science Translational Medicine, to determine how to cure tinnitus, "the perception of sound when no actual external noise is present," according to American Tinnitus Association.

First, they identified the root cause of the condition. It’s the dorsal cochlear, which is located in the region of the brainstem.

"When the main neurons in this region, called fusiform cells, become hyperactive and synchronize with one another, the phantom signal is transmitted into other centers where perception occurs,"  coauthor Susan Shore said in the statement. "If we can stop these signals, we can stop tinnitus."

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To do so, they created a gadget that perfectly times sound and skin stimulation to target the nerve activity that causes the signal.

“The device plays a sound into the ears, alternating it with precisely timed, mild electrical pulses delivered to the cheek or neck. This sets off a process called stimulus timing-dependent plasticity, or STDP. The approach aims to reset the activity of fusiform cells,” the authors wrote.

They then tested their invention on 20 humans, who used it for a half an hour everyday for one month. After analyzing the results, they found that two of the participants were cured completely, and 11 reported reduced noise and pitch levels.

“We’re definitely encouraged by these results, but we need to optimize the length of treatments, identify which subgroups of patients may benefit most, and determine if this approach works in patients who have nonsomatic forms of the condition that can’t be modulated by head and neck maneuvers,” Shore said.

While they plan to continue their investigations, they hope the device can be used as treatment for patients who suffer from tinnitus.

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