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University of Auckland researchers claim tinnitus breakthrough

The University of Auckland researchers say they have achieved a breakthrough in tinnitus management which they hope will be rolled out worldwide.

People with the common condition hear ringing or other noises when there is no outside sound. It can range from mild to severe and disruptive.

There was no cure, but there were techniques to lessen the impact.

Grant Searchfield, associate professor of audiology at the University of Auckland, said his new method, using a combination of counseling and a phone game, worked for more people and in a much faster timeframe than others.

Phone apps already existed, but the difference in the study was that participants also got guidance, and the games were then individually tailored, he said.

It helped rewire the brain.

“Over time, people’s attention to tinnitus changes, diminishes and fades into the background where people just don’t notice it,” he said.

“It just becomes another sound in the background, which doesn’t deserve attention.”

All study participants had to have moderate to severe tinnitus to participate, he said.

Sixty-five percent of those using the method noticed improvement within 12 weeks, where other methods often took about a year, he said.

Some participants said it was life changing.

Dr Searchfield hoped the method would soon be able to help more people better cope with their tinnitus.

“It may mean they return to work sooner, it may mean their relationships are improving, it is likely that their sleep will improve. Generally, a reduction in tinnitus will also be associated with a reduction in depression and anxiety,” he said.

The results of the study have been published in the journal Frontiers in Neurology.

The team was now seeking participants for a larger trial, with a view to gaining approval as a therapy from the US Federal Drug Administration.