Page last updated at 11:23 GMT, Monday, 14 December 2009

Web 'cure' for temporary tinnitus

By Jane Elliott
Health reporter, BBC News

Graphic of ear: Pic caption:Pasieka/SPL
Of 1,000 people surveyed, 92% had suffered from temporary tinnitus

Two teenage students and their teacher say they have a web-based cure for the ringing in the ears experienced after exposure to high volumes.

Their website, Restored Hearing, sells 60 minute-long therapeutic "hums", which they say have a 99% success rate.

The concept won the runners-up prize at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition - but some audiologists are calling for a cautious response.

Temporary tinnitus, as the condition is known, lasts for up to 24 hours.

Of 1,000 people surveyed, 92% had suffered from temporary tinnitus, Eimear O'Carroll, 19, said.

Tests on 250 sufferers had "a 99% success rate", she said.

"After coming out of discos or listening to MP3 players they found they had ringing in their ears. Our therapy... stimulated and soothed the ear."

The website was now creating "phenomenal levels of interest," Ms O'Carroll added.

The problem with tinnitus is... there are multiple proposed mechanisms for its cause, and thus a single treatment, or cure, will be difficult to find
Marcus Choo
Consultant surgeon

Fellow student Rhona Togher said: "We're on to a winner."

But Marcus Choo, a consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon at Sligo General Hospital, is calling for stringent clinical tests.

"The device works by introducing a low frequency noise to the affected ear, which helps straighten nerve endings... distorted by loud noise.

"These distorted nerve endings are possibly responsible for the tinnitus associated with loud noise exposure.

"It is an innovative approach... and full credit to the girls responsible for the idea.

"As for its potential for a permanent cure for the common form of tinnitus... it is very early days yet.

Clinical scrutiny

"The girls need to undertake further rigorous scientific research such as a randomised-control trial to establish the true efficacy of their device.

"The problem with tinnitus is... there are multiple proposed mechanisms for its cause, and thus a single treatment, or cure, will be difficult to find."

David Baguley, head of audiology at Cambridge University Hospitals and adviser to the British Tinnitus Association, agreed caution was vital.

"Innovative approaches to tinnitus treatment are generally to be encouraged, but they must be subjected to scientific and clinical scrutiny before they can be deemed safe and effective."

Crystal Rolfe, of the charity RNID, said: "There are many different causes of tinnitus and at present there is no proven cure for the condition, althought there has been some promising research findings recently.

"Tinnitus and hearing loss caused by loud noise is the most preventable type. Simply wearing ear plugs when watching live music and turning down your MP3 player can help protect your hearing."



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SEE ALSO
Tinnitus cure 'is a step closer'
25 Mar 09 |  Health
Many fail to recognise tinnitus
19 Feb 07 |  Health
Inside Medicine: The audiologist
14 Feb 08 |  Health
Have you heard 'the Hum'?
19 May 09 |  UK

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