Audiologist May Use Mutebutton to Treat Tinnitus in the Future

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Published: 11 Jun 2015      

A new development is being hailed by researchers and some audiologists as a potential revolution in the battle against tinnitus. Known as the Mutebutton, the device apparently stimulates the tongue in an effort to tackle the problem and can be used for just thirty minutes every day to help the brain turn down the phantom noises caused by the issue.

The system is an intriguing device and features a pair of headphones coupled with a device that is placed on the tongue. Relaxing music and sounds from nature are then used to provide the timing for the tongue simulation, with the music playing through the headphones. Said headphones are connected to a signal generator and work to lower the volume of the noise that is experienced by sufferers, which usually comes in the form of ringing, buzzing or hissing.

Clinical trials have apparently shown that the technology is capable of reducing the amount of noise experienced by around 40%, which will be welcome relief to the thousands who visit their doctor every year with the problem.

Little is known about tinnitus, much less about how it can be cured, and the affliction has been linked to depression and increased stress in sufferers who are simply unable to escape the constant noise. At this point in time it is not known what causes the condition, though some audiologists believe that it is closely linked with hearing loss.

The Mutebutton apparently works by retraining the brain through the previously mentioned tongue stimulation, with the nerves in the tongue being key to the process. Through this stimulation it is believed that the loudness experienced by sufferers can be reduced.

The device is configured by the patient's audiologist with reference to the current condition of the patient and the state of their hearing at that moment in time. The Mutebutton then aims to play down the sounds of tinnitus, which some believe to be noises generated by the brain to compensate for hearing loss, replacing it with the noise generated by the headphones.

Trials were conducted on sixty sufferers by the National University of Ireland, with patients asked to use the device for half an hour every day over the course of ten weeks. The result was a 42% average reduction in the noise they heard as a result of the condition, which may make the technology viable for use in the future.

Louise Hart, senior audiologist for the charity Action on Hearing Loss, is cautiously optimistic. She stated: "We welcome all new research, as the mechanisms behind this debilitating condition are still not fully understood and more progress is needed to improve the chances of effective treatments in the future.

"More evidence is needed on the effectiveness of this device before it can offer real hope to the millions of tinnitus sufferers across the UK."

 

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