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Tinnitus Sufferers Hoping Serenade Sound Therapy Can Relieve Ear Ringing

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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tinnitus, soundcure, hearTinnitus, a condition that causes people to hear sounds such as ringing in the ears even when all is quiet, afflicts at least 10 percent of American adults. Although there’s nothing doctors can do to alleviate this discomfort permanently, new approaches to treating the problem are in the works. One of the latest is a sound-therapy device designed to produce unique tones that distract the wearer’s brain from more irritating sounds. The SoundCure Serenade Tinnitus Treatment System has received a hearty endorsement from the American Tinnitus Association (ATA), which invested $138,000 in the technology’s development and this weekend is hosting a fundraiser in Portland, Ore., to raise additional money for tinnitus research.

SoundCure, a Silicon Valley startup, made the Serenade system available this past March. It is a handheld device with headphones that produces low-frequency modulated sounds the company claims provide more relief than the standard treatment—unmodulated tones or high-pitch white noise. The tones are customized for each patient based on that person’s specific level of tinnitus, although the reprieve is temporary, experienced only when the Serenade is in use.

Reports of tinnitus are rising because of widespread use of personal entertainment and communication devices, particularly in children, according to researchers at the University of California at Irvine’s Hearing Research Center, where Serenade was first developed. In a paper published online in April by the Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology, the researchers, who describe tinnitus as a “brain disorder,” said their device was most effective when the volume was set at a level just softer than the sounds produced by tinnitus (pdf). Tinnitus is also the most common disability among Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Other approaches are attempting to provide more permanent relief. With help from the U.S. Department of Defense, Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Mass., is fleshing out a concept for a small delivery device inserted near the membrane-covered window—no more than three millimeters in diameter—separating the middle ear from the inner ear. Once at the membrane the device (essentially a polymer capsule, although Draper is not developing any of medicines that might be placed inside) would release a drug into the cochlea, the tubular organ residing in the inner ear that enables us to hear. The plan is to embed wireless communications into the capsule so that a patient or doctor can control the dosage. After the capsule finishes delivering its supply of drugs, it would dissolve.

Portland’s 2012 Jack Vernon Walk to Silence Tinnitus is being held June 16 with ATA contributing twice the amount of each donation of $25 or more to tinnitus research.

Serenade image courtesy of SoundCure, an Allied Minds company

About the Author: Larry is the associate editor of technology for Scientific American, covering a variety of tech-related topics, including biotech, computers, military tech, nanotech and robots. Follow on Twitter @lggreenemeier.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. jtdwyer 10:40 am 06/15/2012

    All these years with 3 kHz – I didn’t realize I was a disabled Viet Nam war vet…

    Link to this
  2. 2. SoundCureJeff 6:08 pm 06/15/2012

    This technology is intended to provide relief from the perception of tinnitus, and research has shown this can be done at volumes lower than the patient’s tinnitus perception which lowers the patient’s “sound burden”. This device is meant to be used as part of an on going sound therapy program like a habituation program that can provide long term relief. Long term benefits of habituation programs are well documented in independent literature. – Jeff Carroll, Director of Clinical Services and Engineering, SoundCure.

    Link to this
  3. 3. yokuoh 8:31 am 06/16/2012

    Note that this is a temporary reprieve from the tinnitus – I have been trying audionotch therapy which is PERMANENT. It re-tunes your brain via white noise and actually lowers the volume of your tinnitus by up to 75%.

    Google audionotch. It’s really good.

    Link to this
  4. 4. yokuoh 8:59 am 06/16/2012

    Furthermore, audionotch is not something that needs to be worn permanently, you do the white noise therapy for a few weeks with an mp3 player and then stop using it but the effects are permanent. I’m really impressed by it.

    The website should do an article on audionotch!

    Link to this
  5. 5. John W. Bales 4:43 pm 06/19/2012

    The problem would seem to be adult-onset tinnitus. Those of us born with it don’t even notice it unless we focus on it. In fact, I would find its absence unsettling. It is possible to become so accustomed to the high-pitched ringing that one ceases to notice it.

    Link to this
  6. 6. andyandjackie3@aol.com 1:49 pm 06/20/2012

    I was 27 when my ears started ringing due to an ear infection. It has been 20 years since I’ve known what is silence. I think the most difficult time is the first few years because it can drive you insane if you let it. To silence the ringing I would use white noise or focus on other natural noise that you hear, especially when sleeping. But I will have to say, you do get adjusted and get use to it to the ringing. It becomes a part of you. I do notice that the ringing becomes louder when I am stressed, lack of sleep or dehydrated. If you embrace it and get beyond that ringing and focus on the other natural noise around you,it helps and won’t drive you as crazy!

    Link to this
  7. 7. siemenscapital 2:42 pm 06/20/2012

    Where do you get google audionotch. What is it really ?

    Thank you,

    Spike

    Link to this
  8. 8. Quinn the Eskimo 10:01 pm 06/24/2012

    Another bunk fix, to steal money from sufferers of a serious condition.

    Link to this
  9. 9. Tinnituscureman 10:20 pm 07/3/2012

    Interesting how everyone commenting is trying to sell something. I, myself, tried http://www.beyondtinnitus.com and have found relief. I don’t even get paid to say this like the others here. Just want to spread the gospel.

    Link to this
  10. 10. jaypayeighty 10:12 am 07/10/2012

    audionotch theraapy is at http://www.audionotch.com. It’s cheaper than everything else I’ve found. I’ve heard good things and I am thinking about joining.

    Link to this
  11. 11. DensiaV 8:58 am 10/18/2012

    Finally there’s a hope for these folks. My mum has been suffering from this since 90s. I explained her that according to yogic practice the buzzing/ringing sound in ear is a sound of those on the journey of enlightment, called nada sound. She got better after knowing that :-)
    ____________
    “Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint” Mark Twain
    http://www.ringinginleftear.org

    Link to this
  12. 12. danielwenniger 3:58 pm 01/21/2013

    The reason I brought this product to market is because I have one of the worst cases of tinnitus in the state of Arizona per my specialist. I have had this terrible condition for over 9 years now and have tried everything out there that claims to help or cure tinnitus even though there is no cure but nothing helped me sleep, concentrate, work and just get through everyday life half as much as the Tackler. The Tackler is the first of its kind affordable, high quality, small and comfortable in the ear masking device that emits a very soothing ocean breeze like sound that is adjustable with a volume control knob. The Tackler comes with different size soft comfortable tips to ensure a proper fit for any size ear. The Tackler comes with a 30 day 100% money back guarantee. If The Tackler dose not help you with your tinnitus simply send it back for a full refund, no questions asked. You can see it at http://www.thetackler.com or call us direct at 602-790-1939.

    Link to this
  13. 13. kennypowers 2:52 pm 10/15/2013

    Sound therapy definitely helps. I would recommend it to anyone out there who is having trouble sleeping because of their tinnitus.

    Link to this
  14. 14. kennypowers 2:54 pm 10/15/2013

    Sound therapy definitely helps. I would recommend it to anyone out there who is having trouble sleeping because of their tinnitus.

    Link to this
  15. 15. BarryKeate 3:00 pm 01/25/2014

    In 1973, Jack Vernon discovered the wondrous effect of the sound of running water on tinnitus. This led to the first tinnitus maskers. The sound of running water is still the best sound for me to mask my tinnitus. Sound generators, portable CDs and smartphone apps are all available.

    Source: http://www.tinnitusformula.com/library/masking-for-tinnitus/

    Link to this
  16. 16. JohnBerg 2:15 am 03/16/2014

    Me personally has for the last 3 month got this high frequency buzzing in my ears. I am not sure what the cause is for me getting tinnitus but I am not the kind of person who like to listen to loud music so I can’t say that is the reason.
    A tip to all readers, NIH is at the moment recruiting participants for clinical trial on new tinnitus treatment device. I have compiled some articles about at A Quiet Hope for Tinnitus Sufferers doing Sound Therapy

    Link to this

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