Recent research shows that TMS, a neurotherapy that uses electromagnetism to alter brain tissues, could be used to ease the ringing in the ears of people suffering from tinnitus.
Tinnitus is a common problem for people who spend a lot of time around loud noises – it describes the ringing or “phantom” tones that can sometimes linger for days. According to a Fox report, a new study suggests that tinnitus could be treated by sending electromagnetic pulses into the brain.
Transcranial magnetic simulation (TMS) is not yet available for every tinnitus patient, but the study’s author hopes that it could gain popularity and be used alongside other treatments like hearing aids and symptom management strategies.
Robert Folmer of the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Oregon Health and Science University says he doesn’t see TMS replacing these therapies, but says it’s a good option for treating hearing damage.
Electric current runs through a coil placed on the scalp, generating a magnetic field that penetrates the scalp and skull to interact with brain tissues. Previous studies have shown that people with tinnitus have increased neural activity in the regions of the brain that process sounds, suggesting that it’s possible to “hear” something even when there is no noise.
By delivering one pulse per second of TMS therapy, extraneous neural activity can be suppressed. The study tested out the treatment on 64 people who reported ringing in their ears, and gave half TMS treatment and the other half a placebo treatment.
They found that some of the patients who received TMS therapy reported a significant improvement to hearing that lasted throughout a six-month follow-up period.
While there will need to be larger clinical trials to determine whether TMS is a viable therapy for treating people with tinnitus, the results are promising and may lead to a simple, neurological fix for a common problem.