AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 2, 2017

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New Technology Alleviates Tinnitus by Retraining the Brain to Ignore Ringing in the Ears

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The approach, used during sleep, offers hope to millions of people who suffer from the most common health condition in the U.S.

As many as 50 million Americans suffer from tinnitus, a debilitating health condition commonly known as “ringing in the ears.” Musicians, factory workers, military veterans and many others endure its effects, including problems with concentration, sleep, anxiety and depression. Many who experience chronic tinnitus turn to sound devices or machines that “mask” their ringing with white noise. But masking typically offers only short-term relief to those who struggle with the perception of buzzing, hissing, whistling or clicking. New technology is now taking a radically different approach by retraining the brain to ignore these types of sounds, alleviating the condition altogether. The Levo System, technology approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), mimics the specific sounds of a patient’s individual tinnitus. The patient listens to the sounds through earbuds while sleeping. Because the brain is most responsive to sensory input during sleep, it grows accustomed to the sounds after a few months of treatment. New research underscores the promise of this approach.

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