Shocking Tinnitus Therapy Is Music To Sufferers’ Ears

Do you suffer from tinnitus? We were surprised to learn that 15-20% of people have this condition that amounts to constant ringing in the ears. Science doesn’t fully understand the ringing part, but one possible explanation is that the brain is compensating for the frequencies it can’t hear any more.

Causes of tinnitus. Image via Drugs.com

[Hubert Lim], a biomedical engineer at the University of Minnesota discovered that the brain can be stimulated to the point of suppressing tinnitus for as long as one year. [Lim] discovered this by accident while doing deep brain stimulation on a patient with tinnitus. The electrode strayed a bit, touching other areas of the brain and the patient suddenly exclaimed that they couldn’t hear their tinnitus anymore.

Then [Lim] and his team tested guinea pigs, searching here, there, and under the armpits for the best place to suppress tinnitus. As it turns out, the tongue is one of the best places when used along with a specific soundscape. So then they did a human trial with 326 people. Each person had a small paddle electrode on their tongue and headphones on their ears.

As the electrodes sparkled like Pop Rocks against their tongues, the trial participants listened to pure frequencies played over a background of sound resembling vaporwave music. The combination of the two overstimulates the brain, forcing it to suppress the tinnitus reaction. This discovery certainly seems like a game changer for tinnitus sufferers. If we had tinnitus, we would be first in line to try this out given the chance. Armed with the soundscape, we’re left to wonder how many 9V batteries we’d have to lick to approximate the paddle.

Speaking of taste, have you ever experienced all five at once? Here’s a device that simulates them all.

67 thoughts on “Shocking Tinnitus Therapy Is Music To Sufferers’ Ears

  1. That sounds really cool (bad pun). As I started to have some ringing this year, I am really curious to see how this develops and hope that it might help me.
    But I would clearly prefer Snake Jazz over Vaporwave music :D

  2. I have tinnitus SOOOooooo bad I bang my head against a wall from time to time for relief. I sure hope this is real but think it’s probably too late for me (51 years old) by the time it’s available, But thankful for all the others that suffer from it.

    1. It probably is not real. There was no control, no blind application, and results are measured subjectively by patients who know they were treated. It probably does nothing, like every tinnitus treatment ever.

      1. As a physician who takes care of tinnitus patients, and who also downloaded and read this research, I completely agree with you that this paper lacks a placebo control, and the odds are very high that this article is “fake news”. I think this is also inappropriate material for hackaday, and also it is very poor journalism.

  3. wait what ? “…discovered this by accident while doing deep brain stimulation on a patient with tinnitus. The electrode strayed a bit, touching other areas of the brain…”

    1. stick electrode in brain
    2. wiggle it around a bit
    3. ??
    4. Profit

  4. i can imagine that initial patient bursting into happy-tears when that happened.
    i would certainly try anything non-invasive like this to help. mine isn’t debilitating but hecka annoying.

  5. I have mild tinnitus. About a year ago it started getting much, much worse. Like “I can’t hear you in an office setting unless you’re looking at me” bad. I had attributed it to a combination of getting older and accidentally being in a couple of hearing-unsafe situations.
    The short version is that I was actually overdosing on Aspirin trying to get myself off of pain meds from surgery. Ringing in the ears is even listed on the label as a problem sign.

    So for the one guy that reads this and says “wait…that’s me!” You’re welcome. A random comment like this one is how I found out.

  6. I was OK until I started reading this article – just seeing the title set it off again!

    Anyhow I’ve saved the mp3 and found a few articles about electrical tongue stimulation, so should be able to try the cure on myself pretty soon!

    1. Seconding the request for documentation if you try it – I thought about trying this myself when I first saw it, but I’m not really sure where to get started with zapping the tongue. I also didn’t feel like paying for the paper, but that one’s easy enough to get past.

      1. Yeah when I saw the paywall for the paper I just tried googling related terms and soon found other tongue electrical stimulation stuff. Good news it’s all 5V so some old skool TTL will do. I’d better keep the leaded solder out of my gob though!

        I’ll give it a whirl and if it works, will write up an article.

    2. I have had tinnitus for as long as I can remember and I’ve been looking into this research with real optimism. Any relief would be amazing! I recently got some very expensive hearing aids that are supposed to help with tinnitus and they works in a similar fashion by playing random tones in the range of your tinnitus, however it obviously doesn’t have the tongue stimulation. And it can take like 2 years of constant wearing to see a reduction in tinnitus. If I can add the DIY tongue stimulation, I may have some luck in bringing that time period down.

      I have also been looking into the research for Transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation (tVNS), which has a flood of new research behind it for the treatment of Anxiety, Depression, Autoimmune conditions, IBS, general inflammation, cognition, etc. The mode of treatment for tVNS and this tinnitus treatment are similar and both can be achieved using a fairly cheap TENS unit that you can get off of Amazon for like $25. I’ve done a few sessions of DIY tVNS, but the real results come with daily treatments for at least 2 weeks according to the research. I still need to fashion together some comfortable electrodes for the outer ear (auricular concha, specifically), as the normal TENS electrodes are larger sticky patches designed for muscle/skin. Now it looks like I’ll need to fashion some comfortable electrodes for the tongue as well.

      I really hope that a cheap, effective product comes out on the market someday, but knowing how the FDA approval process works, these units are going to cost thousands and be prescription only, so maybe the DIY route is the only reasonable way to go for now.

      1. I have been trying everything I come across for years, trying to find anything to help. I was thinking of trying a TENS machine so I’m glad to hear that you may have had some help from it. Could you tell me which one you got and how you have used it. It sounds like you know how it feels to be desperate to try anything. Thanks

  7. “The electrical stimulation feels a little like pop rocks candy fizzing in your mouth, Lim says.”
    and
    “a background noise that sounds “kind of like electronic music”

    BRB everyone, apparently candy and EDM can cure my tinnitus.

    Follow-up question, does a mouth full of poprocks at an EDM festival actively cure the tinnitus being caused by the insanely loud music as it happens?

  8. I would give anything to hear silence in the woods again.

    I have tinnitus, not extremely bad, but enough that I can hear it all the time. Years of working in machine shops and compressed air, all the death and thrash metal concerts I stood next to the speakers around the pit probably caused it.

    I think mostly I noticed it after working next to a waterjet for a year. Piercing 6″ steel is insanely loud

    I’d give anything to get rid of this, I wish it on noone

  9. Mom just received new hearing aids that cause her tinnitus to go away. I should ask if is stays away for a while when she is not wearing them. Her doctor said that most tinnitus is caused by the brain and not the ear. I really wondered about that. This article clears things up for me.

  10. That’s strange. Aspirin and other blood flow improving drugs are said to be used as a first countermeasure to sudden deafness / temporary deafness.
    I am not sure if Increasing blood flow and tinnitus are really related, or if this is just temporary stimulation.

    1. If you experience sudden decreased hearing in one ear, don’t self-medicate and go to an audiologist immediately!

      That sudden deafness can be due to Meniere’s disease,and if so there’s a short window of time to try to reverse it before the effects can become permanent.

  11. From https://www.kare11.com/article/news/health/clinical-trial-shows-promise-for-tinnitus-treatment/89-e792ace5-2f19-4bdc-8417-0206e2f75a92 : “Dr Lim is also the chief scientific officer at Neuromod Devices Limited, an Irish medical device company…. The tinnitus treatment device, now called Lenire, was developed by Neuromod… The device is available in Europe…”
    Any of our EU colleagues have access to a device and can do a teardown?

    1. What is that white noise in the bg? It sounds really terrible to my ears, cant be healthy. Btw..i listen to white noise sometimes and after a minute or 5 i always start to hear the sounds of an orchestra tuning..prolly my brain trying to make sense of the randomness..anyone the same?

  12. There’s also this gem here to try:
    https://np.reddit.com/r/WTF/comments/3l3uri/these_guys_lighting_a_mortar_shell_in_their_garage/cv3474n/

    Place the palms of your hands over your ears with fingers resting gently on the back of your head. Your middle fingers should point toward one another just above the base of your skull. Place your index fingers on top of you middle fingers and snap them (the index fingers) onto the skull making a loud, drumming noise. Repeat 40-50 times. Some people experience immediate relief with this method. Repeat several times a day for as long as necessary to reduce tinnitus.Dr. Jan Strydom, of A2Z of Health, Beauty and Fintess.org.

    This always works for me.

    Edit: This is how I feel right now

  13. Most participants reported a drop of around 10-14 points out of a 100. Not enough to get me to sit for up to an hour with something in my mouth :/ Maybe it can be improved…

    1. Yep, not even close to a cure. Also at the end of the article they not there was not even a control group. Pretty shady study if you ask me. Here’s the quote:

      “Still, University of Oxford neuroscientist Victoria Bajo notes there was no control group in the trial. Without that, she says, it’s impossible to know how much patients would have improved on their own or with a placebo. The work is good, she says, “but this is the beginning.””

  14. From the paper:
    ‘High-fidelity Bluetooth headphones deliver the auditory stimulation, which includes sequences of pure tones and wideband noise. The trigeminal nerve is stimulated electrically via a 32-electrode transmucosal array placed on the anterior dorsal surface of the tongue. Tongue stimulation is delivered in the form of biphasic anodic-leading pulses of duration between 5 and 130 μs and fixed amplitude. The electrodes in the array are stimulated in a temporospatial pattern that represent features of the acoustic stimulus, such as the frequencies and onset of stimulus tones. Each stimulation parameter setting (PS) listed in Table 1 represents a different combination of acoustic and tongue stimulation patterns or delays that are being evaluated in this study. ‘

    https://www.researchprotocols.org/2019/9/e13176/

    And now for someone on here to translate :)

  15. It is certainly very odd modern medical science still cannot treat such conditions with all the financing it enjoys. Conventional medicine and especially neurology is so ineffective they should be sued for wasting our money

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