According to findings published today in the head and neck surgery journal JAMA Otolaryngology, a clinical trial in the US has found that magnetic stimulation improves tinnitus symptoms for more than half of study participants.
Tinnitus is the term used to describe sounds which appear to have an internal source. According to NHS Choices it can affect concentration, cause sleeping problems and exacerbate depression. It is one of the most common health complaints, especially among armed forces personnel. There are no proven treatments available.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which is currently only used to treat depression, involves generating a cone-shaped magnetic field which penetrates the skull to interact with brain tissue and affect neural activity.
The 64 participants received one pulse of TMS per second for 30 minutes, aimed at the auditory cortex. Eighteen of the 32 participants who received the active treatment reported that their symptoms reduced in frequency and intensity for at least six months.
Robert Folmer, the associate professor of otolaryngology at the Oregon Health and Science University, said:
‘For some study participants, this was the first time in years that they experienced any relief in symptoms. These promising results bring us closer to developing a long-sought treatment for this condition.’
Following these results, Folmer hopes to conduct a larger clinical trial to refine the use of TMS in treating tinnitus.