The American Tinnitus Association (ATA) is pushing for a cure for this ringing-in-the-ears condition that affects more than 50 million Americans. The ATA announced it’s funding more than $156,000 for “research seed grants” to end this debilitating malady.
“Tinnitus is the perception of sound when no actual external noise is present. It’s one of the most common health conditions in the country. Nearly 15 percent of the general public experiences some form of tinnitus. It’s not a disease, but a symptom of an underlying health issue, most frequently the result of some level of hearing loss,” explains the ATA.
Tinnitus can present in multiple ways, including soft ringing in their ears, ongoing loud pulsating sounds, whistling noises, and other distracting sounds.
Audiologist Dr. Susan Rogan says that while there’s no cure for tinnitus yet, several treatment options are available to help sufferers manage symptoms.
The ATA adds that additional tinnitus treatments are being tested, including “repetitive transcranial magnetic and current stimulation.” ATA says these non-invasive electromagnetic treatments hope to minimize the brain’s “neural (nerve) hyperactivity underlying tinnitus.”
Researchers are also exploring “deep brain stimulation” to conquer tinnitus, where electrodes are surgically implanted directly into the brain. This treatment was originally intended for Parkinson’s Disease patients, until the side effect of reducing tinnitus was discovered.
Implanting electrodes into the brain surface and the vagus nerve (which runs through the neck, connecting the brain to the heart) is being studied, as scientists weigh the risks of brain surgery against the amount of tinnitus relief.
Current treatment methods mask tinnitus, while future procedures aim to “return the brain to a state where it doesn’t generate tinnitus, but eliminates it,” states the National Institutes of Health.