Skip to comments.WT prof's tinnitus research rings true
Posted on 03/29/2011 5:30:29 AM PDT by Red Badger
A professor at West Texas A&M University may have discovered a way to help permanently decrease or remove tinnitus, a condition that causes a constant, and often irritating, ringing in the ears.
The American Tinnitus Association reports that tinnitus affects up to 50 million Americans. The causes of the condition vary but include hearing loss, exposure to loud noises, serious illnesses and consumption of substances such as nicotine, caffeine and medicine.
Leslie Dalton, a professor at WT's speech and hearing clinic, has spent the past 12 years developing tinnitus treatment mostly delivered through the use of a chip, software and large headphones. The chip sends a quiet and pre-programmed sound to the headphones, changing the channels sound takes to reach the brain.
Dalton, in his third year at WT, likens the process to reorganizing roads to change the way a vehicle reaches a destination. Whatever conditions lead to tinnitus affect the brain's normal functions, causing the ringing sound, he said.
"It causes the brain to reprocess in the wrong place," he said. "We return the hearing so that the normal part of the brain takes over."
Dalton has seen some success with his work.
Gretchen Mercer, who took Dalton's treatment a few times during the past year, said the method completely removed her tinnitus whenever she put on the headphones.
"The first time I put on the headphones, my whole body just relaxed," she said. "You hear nothing. It totally erases the tinnitus."
One of the goals with the tinnitus research is to create a prototype that can be distributed to local audiology clinics before the end of the summer, said Paige Brittain, owner of Headsets Inc., an Amarillo business that sells aviation and military headsets.
About a year ago, Brittain and Dalton helped start up another company, Dichonics Inc., with plans to later manufacture personal devices that can deliver the sound treatment.
"We will continue to improve the product," Brittain said. "But right now, we're just trying to put it together and put it in the hands of specialists."
While the treatment Dalton performs at WT provides no long-term fix for tinnitus, he said he thinks that giving patients daily access to a device at home would let them train their brains into ignoring the condition.
"Once we get to nano-technology, we can turn into a kind of hearing aid," he said.
While millions of Americans suffer from tinnitus, many more do not report the condition, said Diana Wise-McPherson, an Amarillo audiologist. She said most of her patients suffer from the condition.
"From past numbers I've heard, about half of the world's population has some kind of head noise," she said. "Now whether it bothers their life, that's another thing."
Treatments to relieve tinnitus exist, but none of them decrease or remove the condition, she said. Existing treatments include acupuncture and massage therapy, she said.
"People do all kinds of things, but there's nothing scientifically proven on the market that alleviates tinnitus," she said.
Other treatments include masking the tinnitus with other sounds or sending electricity into the ear's cochlea, Dalton said.
"But the patient still hears something," he said.
Mercer said she developed tinnitus about two years after contracting the West Nile virus in 2004. The virus caused some hearing loss, she said.
"In my experience, it can debilitating," she said. "It can drive you insane. It's a constant humming in your head. Sometimes, you can ignore it, but there are times when it's just loud and it gets worse."
This is indeed, Good News! I have had it for three years. Though I can mostly ignore it, there are days when it drives me nuts!
I have had it for 30 years now....I do know the sound of silence....
sorry... I meant I do NOT know the sound of silence...need more coffee
Huh? Don't more than 50 million Americans take medicine? How do they correlate this with tinnitus?
certain medications are known to damage the auditory nerve,as even the simple aspirin is capable.
Some medicines, most notably ASPIRIN, can cause tinnitus as a side effect. Some cough syrups can too............
I’ve had this problem for decades and it’s partly the reason I now have to wear hearing aids. Sometimes the ringing is so loud, especially in the mornings when I first get up, I can barely hear what my husband is trying to say to me. Which isn’t always such a bad thing...lol
Shirley you know the sound of silence. If not, learn about it below.
Seriously, I've had tinnitus for several years now. Silence would be very nice sometimes.
(And I'll stop calling you Shirley.)
Taking aspirin, large doses of aspirin, can cause tinnitus.
I can’t remember how long I’ve had it, but it is always there. Aaaaachhhh!
Do you take blood pressure medicine?.............
Huh? I can't remember a time when I didn't have an annoying ringing in my ears; I've never known silence. Currently tinnitus sufferers can learn to ignore it -- it's about all we have. While a new way to help ignore it is certainly welcome, I've found temporary relief tends to be more frustrating than helpful. When the temporary relief ends, the sound seems even louder and more intrusive. It's a lot like giving a starving person a piece of chocolate.
When I pay attention to it it sounds like I’m sitting in the middle of a swamp after sundown with millions of crickets and other chirping insect noise.
It’s getting worse and worse, so loud at times it drives me crazy.
This treatment may be effective for recently begun cases of tinnitus.
For us that have had it for decades, we already have learned to ignore it.........
I have that same feeling.
It’s okay, since I live in Florida!...............
Interesting. I have a mild ringing in my ears (professional musician). It doesn’t bother me, but I imagine it will get worse if I live long enough. I’ve never sought treatment, so obviously mine isn’t that bad.
No, I’ve had this problem as far back as I can remember to at least early adulthood, I’m 58 now. I actually am not sure when it started. I just can never remember not having the problem, except during childhood. I did have a lot of ear infections as a child, which makes me wonder about that. And I also have calcification or hardening of that little hammer bone in my ear.
I might be interested in this. My tinnitus began in my late 20s (I’m 60) when I was a AF missile officer working in a loud environment and became worse in my 40s. It is now a very loud ringing although I can tune it out for the most part. It would be nice to be rid of it altogether.