Optimizing Sound to Suppress Tinnitus
Background: Tinnitus is the perception of sound in the absence of corresponding external sounds. Although known for its high-pitched ringing, tinnitus is an internal noise that varies in pitch and frequency. Tinnitus affects approximately 50 million people in the United States. Treatments such as drugs, surgeries and masking exist, but none are consistently effective and may have significant side effects. UC Irvine researchers have found that optimized sounds complementary to tinnitus can be used to suppress, rather than mask, tinnitus. Optimized sound can be delivered either acoustically via an audio device (for example an iPOD or other ear device) or electrically via a temporal or permanent implant. Technology: UC Irvine researchers tested in human subjects technology to suppress tinnitus rather than merely masking it. Methods designed to mask tinnitus are not useful for people who suffer from loud tinnitus since, to mask the tinnitus, the external sound has to be louder than the tinnitus. When tinnitus is masked, the masking sound is equal to or greater in volume than the tinnitus sound. A low-pitched sound, the researchers discovered, suppresses and provides temporary relief from the high-pitched ringing associated with tinnitus. A low-pitch sound can be used to suppress a high-pitched tinnitus. The UCI technology encompasses a patterned acoustic or electric signal sound delivery device and a method to suppress tinnitus. The device delivers patterned acoustic or electric sound that may have complementary qualities to tinnitus, the advantage being that the external sound does not need to be as loud as the perceived tinnitus sound. Application: There is no effective treatment to ameliorate tinnitus. The invention addresses the need by providing an effective and low cost means of completely suppressing tinnitus by utilizing optimized sounds.
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