Affecting around 15% of the population, tinnitus is no joke. With a variety of different causes, tinnitus is categorized most often as a ringing sound with no external source. Though ringing is most common, the sound can vary from person to person, along with the frequency at which the noise occurs. What does not vary, however, is the mental and physical toll tinnitus takes on an individual. Unable to sleep, focus, or even just think, many patients suffering from tinnitus suffer a steady decline in the quality of life they experience. Thankfully, with constant technological advancements, that are a multitude of ways to treat and minimize tinnitus. However, a new advancement called neuromodulation is making waves in the treatment of tinnitus stands out in particular.
What is Neuromodulation?
While still in early infancy, results of research conducted thus far yield positive results that could make neuromodulation a popular treatment. Using a combination of sound and stimuli, neuromodulation treatments come in many forms, each one using its own combination of sound and stimuli to increase neuroplasticity (new neuron connections). The actual treatments vary. Milder cases may only need to listen to sounds, some receive magnetic brain stimuli, and others are given nerve stimulation as treatment. In some cases, a combination of stimuli has been used, which is called bimodal neuromodulation.
In a run of clinical trials (TENT-A1, TENT-A2, and TENT-A3), researchers used various methods of neuromodulation treatment on three different groups. One of these groups received bimodal neuromodulation as their 12-week treatment plan. As a result of the study, over 70% of participants noted an improvement in their tinnitus.
Which Forms of Tinnitus Does Neuromodulation Treat?
Neuromodulation is a very new treatment for tinnitus, having just acquired FDA approval in March of 2023. That being said, research is still being conducted on its effectiveness. Tinnitus can begin in a host of different ways whether there is an ear blockage, hearing loss, or atypical blood flow, and the different causes can make a patient’s tinnitus either subjective or objective.
Subjective tinnitus is the more common of the two and is only able to be heard by the patient. On the other hand, objective tinnitus can be heard by doctors with a special tool. In the comprehensive TENT-A studies, only subjective tinnitus patients were included in the research. As a result, it is unknown whether people with objective tinnitus could benefit from bimodal neuromodulation or neuromodulation of another kind.
Is Neuromodulation Invasive?
Just like there are multiple forms of stimuli used in neuromodulation, there are different treatments that require differing levels of invasiveness. Invasive methods are not currently FDA-approved but involve surgically implanting a device to send electrical signals to your brain. The hope is that it trains your brain to ignore tinnitus, and clinical trials are currently underway to test its treatment capability. Most research surrounding neuromodulation is about the noninvasive methods, though the Lenire device used in the TENT-A studies is the only method currently FDA-approved.
Other Treatments in the Meantime
While we wait for further trials and FDA approval, hearing aids and maskers have helped patients with tinnitus in the past and may help you too. Additionally keeping your ears clean and free of obstruction can alleviate some of the symptoms.
Schedule a Consultation
If you are suffering from tinnitus, we recommend scheduling a consultation with one of our providers to speak about your options today and take the next steps toward relief. Contact Hearing Doctors of New Jersey in Livingston, NJ today.