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Acoustic Neural Stimulation

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Updated April 10, 2011

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Definition:

Acoustic neural stimulation is a relatively new technique that involves using an external device to "turn on" a nerve. It is being used to manage tinnitus. Tinnitus is a condition in which people hear ringing in the ears, and it is also associated with hearing loss. A device and headphones are used to transmit an acoustic signal with music. The goal of acoustic neural stimulation is to make the person less sensitive to loud or persistent tinnitus.

How effective is acoustic neural stimulation as a treatment for tinnitus? A study was done that compared an acoustic neural stimulation treatment from Neuromonics with the use of broadband noise and counseling, or just counseling. The results showed that 86% of those using the acoustic neural stimulation treatment experienced improvement after six months of daily self-treatment.

Another acoustic neural stimulation treatment is UltraQuiet. UltraQuiet uses processed music and bone conduction to provide therapy for 30 minutes to an hour twice a week. In a study of UltraQuiet's effectiveness, eight people who completed the study (originally it was nine people but one person dropped out before the study was completed) reported improvement. The study involved using processed music to modulate a signal of 10 to 20 Kilohertz (kHz). Twice a week for 30 minutes, and then 60 minutes, the participants used the treatment. Two to eight months after the end of the treatment, six of the participants reported at least some improvement. In addition, one participant reported that the improvement lasted for four weeks after the end of treatment.

Sources:

Davis P, Wilde R, Lyndall G, Hanley P: Treatment of tinnitus with a customized acoustic neural stimulus: a controlled clinical study. Ear Nose Throat J. 2008;87:330-39.

Goldstein BA, Shulman A, Lenhardt ML, Richards DG, Madsen AG, Guinta R, et al. Long-Term Inhibition of Tinnitus by UltraQuiet Therapy: Preliminary Report. Int Tinnitus J. 2001;7(2):122-127. http://www.tinnitusjournal.com/detalhe_artigo.asp?id=207. Accessed April 2011.

Tinnitus. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/tinnitus. Accessed April 2011.

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