Scientists develop promising new approach to tinnitus treatment

NewsGuard 100/100 Score

An experimental device that delivers precisely timed signals to target nerve activity in the brain could help ease the symptoms of tinnitus, say researchers from the University of Michigan.

Credit: BLACKDAY/Shutterstock


The findings come from the first animal tests and clinical trial of the approach, which included data from 20 human tinnitus sufferers.

Based on years of research into the underlying cause of tinnitus, the approach, which is called bimodal auditory-somatosensory stimulation, delivers precisely timed sound into the ears, alternating it with weak electrical pulses delivered to the cheek or neck.

The goal is to re-set the activity of fusiform cells, which are involved in the brain’s processing of sounds and sensations. Previous studies by the researchers have shown that loud noise can alter the activity of these cells, causing them to fire signals spontaneously rather than in response to an existing sound in the environment.

In the current study, guinea pigs with noise-induced tinnitus showed that specific timing between the delivery of the sound and electrical pulses was required to suppress the overactive fusiform cells.

As reported in Science Translational Medicine, after the device had been calibrated to patients’ individual tinnitus symptoms, participants applied it for 30 minutes each day over a four-week period.

Half the group received the bimodal sound-and-electricity treatment, while the other half received sound-only treatment. After a four-week break, the treatment was swapped between the groups and the study carried out over a further four weeks.

None of the patients were aware of which treatment they had received first. The patients completed weekly surveys on how tinnitus was affecting their lives and underwent tests to gauge how loud their tinnitus sounds were.

Overall, the results showed that it was only after receiving the bimodal treatment and not the sound-only treatment, that the loudness of phantom sounds decreased and tinnitus-related quality of life improved. Two patients reported the tinnitus disappearing completely.

The team has now received NIH funding for a further trial aimed to refine the approach.

Lead author Susan Shore says that when fusiform cells become hyperactive and synchronize with one another, phantom signals are transmitted to brain regions involved in perception and that stopping these signals can stop tinnitus:

That is what our approach attempts to do, and we're encouraged by these initial parallel results in animals and humans"

Sally Robertson

Written by

Sally Robertson

Sally first developed an interest in medical communications when she took on the role of Journal Development Editor for BioMed Central (BMC), after having graduated with a degree in biomedical science from Greenwich University.


Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Robertson, Sally. (2019, June 19). Scientists develop promising new approach to tinnitus treatment. News-Medical. Retrieved on April 22, 2024 from

  • MLA

    Robertson, Sally. "Scientists develop promising new approach to tinnitus treatment". News-Medical. 22 April 2024. <>.

  • Chicago

    Robertson, Sally. "Scientists develop promising new approach to tinnitus treatment". News-Medical. (accessed April 22, 2024).

  • Harvard

    Robertson, Sally. 2019. Scientists develop promising new approach to tinnitus treatment. News-Medical, viewed 22 April 2024,


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.

You might also like...
Hearing aid usage linked to reduced mortality in adults with hearing impairments