The study, done by a mixed team from the Oregon Health & Science University and the National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research, showed that a very effective way to combat ringing ears is through repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), which appeared to be an effective long term solution. The results of the study were posted in the JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery journal.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation is easy to apply and harmless, consisting of getting a magnetic field through the skull and into the area of the brain responsible for hearing.
The study involved 64 volunteers suffering from tinnitus on either permanent or temporary basis. The volunteers were all told that they will be treated with rTMS, but were then unknowingly split into two groups – one in which they were actually treated with the procedure and another which went through a bogus treatment. Each of the groups underwent the treatment for 10 days, with the ones who went through the real deal having more than 20,000 magnetic pulses sent to their brains in total.
Over the next sixth months, the participants were asked to fill periodic questionnaires about the frequency and intensity of their ear ringing. Results showed that 56 percent of those who were treated with rTMS indicated lesser or even no occurrences of tinnitus for the following six months, whilst only 22 percent of those given the hoax treatment showed improvements.
Ringing ears – or tinnitus, as it is scientifically known – is an annoying ringing sensation during which a continuous high-pitched sound can be detected by the sufferer, which differs with regards to intensity. Although it is a common occurrence after prolonged exposure to high volume sounds (such as live concerts), tinnitus could also be a sign of a dangerous ear infection or Meniere’s disease.
Constant tinnitus has in some cases drastic effects over the sufferer’s health condition, as it makes it harder to concentrate or fall asleep. It is estimated that over 45 million Americans struggle with the condition, which has no ultimately certain treatment.
Tinnitus is a common occurrence with war veterans, as they are exposed to very loud noises during their time in service. Be it due to constant gun noises, shelling or explosions, many veterans return home with permanent tinnitus, which adds even more stress to their period of rehabilitation into a normal society.
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