A noninvasive therapy being used to treat depression may one day provide much-needed symptom relief to some of the 20 million Americans who suffer from chronic ringing in the ears, or tinnitus.
Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) sends an electric current into the brain through a powerful magnetic field to help stimulate certain areas.
In a July 2015 study published online in JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, researchers from Oregon Health & Science University administered rTMS to 32 patients (average age, 60) who had suffered from tinnitus for at least a year.
The therapy is administered using an electromagnetic coil placed on a patient’s head. The coil transmits electric currents to stimulate nerve cells in the brain for about 30 to 60 minutes. The patients in the study received rTMS for 10 consecutive business days. Twenty-six weeks later, 56 percent (18 patients) continued to see significant symptom improvement.
The researchers plan to continue and expand this trial partly to ascertain longer-term outcomes. The researchers also caution that rTMS shouldn’t replace current management strategies for tinnitus, such as noise suppression with white-noise machines or hearing aids, drugs, cognitive behavioral therapy, and tinnitus retraining therapy.
Instead, they hope it will be a viable option for patients who don’t respond favorably to other treatments.
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