Friday, July 11, 2008

Human Auditory System: Experimental tinnitus treatment

Researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) have developed an experimental treatment to help sufferers from tinnitus (also known as "ringing in the ears"). They report that they have successfully treated one patient using a technique known as frequency repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). The treatment scheme involves multiple sessions of this magnetic stimulation with the location of the magnet coil being determined from a PET scan, which is an imaging technique used to see inside of the brain.

The ScienceDaily article says that 17 percent of Americans suffer from tinnitus, but I am not sure what that statistic means - is it "suffer from at some point in their lives", "continually suffer from" or what? It seems from anecodatal evidence to be "continually suffer", but that is besides the point. It will be a step forward if they have developed a safe and effective treatment.

Follow-up: I was speaking to an ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat) specialist the other day and asked about this statistic of 17% of Americans suffering from tinnitus. He said that that statistic was compiled from medical records - in other words, the number of patients that reported tinnitus symptoms to their doctors. I unfortunately did not think to ask him at the time whether the raw data was then adjusted to account for other factors or not. He also said that taking certain prescription medications, such as Cipro, can result in long-term or permanent tinnitus and that the chances increase if the patient has existing hearing loss (presumably age- or exposure-related).

No comments: