29.11.2017 change 29.11.2017

Polish specialists develop tinnitus treatment

Photo: Fotolia Photo: Fotolia

Hearing nerves slowly disappear in people struggling with tinnitus for more than four years. The treatment of such patients is particularly difficult. Polish specialists are working on it, having been subsidized by the EU Horizon 2020 program.

It may be ringing, hiss, roaring, clicking - tinnitus that can be heard in a variety of ways. There are still few effective ways to reduce it. One of them - Synaptic Adaptation Stability ARC - was developed a few years ago by Polish specialists from the Kinetic Modern Audiology Cente.

It involves "administering" an artificial sound environment to the patient. In this artificial environment, the inner ear is stimulated at the site of the damage with a substitute signal with the appropriate frequency. After the test, the patient receives a headset that must be worn for 8-9 hours a day for several months. Diet and physical activity are also needed, because without them the effectiveness of therapy decreases.

The same specialists are now working on a solution that will enable a much more difficult treatment of people struggling with tinnitus for more than four years. For this purpose they received a grant from the EU Horizon 2020 program - in the first phase of the subsidy it is 50 thousand euros.

After only two years, the tinnitus patient\'s nervous system changes its structure, the auditory nerve slightly disappears. Because of this, patients who experience long-term tinnitus need to be treated differently. The use of acoustic therapy alone is much more difficult and less effective" - said Dr. Adam Pabiś - audiologist, neuroscientist from the Kinetic Modern Audiology Cente.

Because of this, his team is working on acoustic stimulation combined with stimulation with vibration signals. "After a series of studies we know that after two years of life with tinnitus, a large part of the auditory cortex uses a motor cortex to collect information about the position of the neck or the head. This is to help the auditory cortex to find the location of the sound" - the researcher explained.

The task of his team is to develop a system that would increase the activity of neurons in the auditory cortex, but also sensory neurons. They analyse muscle tone and are easily stimulated in patients with tinnitus. "Three American studies conducted on cells have shown that this type of simulation is very effective in patients who have suffered from tinnitus for more than four years" - noted Pabiś.

Polish specialists have prepared a special device and software, which provides patients with both acoustic stimulation and vibration signals. The system uses Apple iWatch and special handset that delivers the appropriate signals. The solution will also be adapted for devices from other manufacturers.

"We are in the process of validating the system and connecting the devices with each other. We are testing whether the device uses the right frequency on a group of patients. After this verification we can start preparing software for doctors that will control the whole therapeutic process" - plans Pabiś.

Chronic tinnitus - explains Pabiś - can be treated with the original method developed by his team, however, the new method brings much better and faster results. In the case of the first method, nerve restoration takes one to six years; in the case of the second method it is 2 to 6 months.

There already is a treatment that can solve the problem of long-term tinnitus, but patients need to go to a medical facility for approx. 10 treatments over two weeks.

According to a 2011 study by the Oxford Journal of Neuroscience, 35-45% Poles experience tinnitus, and in about 25 percent cases the condition causes sleep problems or irritability. Tinnitus can be caused, for example, by chronic otitis media or hearing loss due to acoustic trauma, medications, hormonal imbalance or stress.

Everyone may experience tinnitus a bit differently. It may be ringing, hiss, roaring, clicking. It all depends on the extent to which the cells have been destroyed. If the cell damage is small, sometimes it can be adjusted, for example by good oxygenation of cells. Under the influence of oxygen cells can regenerate and the noise disappears. But this process usually is not that simple, especially for people struggling with the problem for more than four years.

author: Ewelina Krajczyńska

PAP - Science in Poland

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