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Tinnitus: New treatment options are being researched
Millions of people suffer from tinnitus. In many cases, the annoying ear noises go away on their own. But some of those affected need help. Various tinnitus therapies are available for this. Scientists now want to test whether neurofeedback training can also help.
Millions of Germans suffer from tinnitus
According to the German Tinnitus League, tinnitus occurs in ten million adults every year. Other health experts assume that the disease occurs in ten to 20 percent of the population. The complaints such as ringing in the ears and ringing in the ears are usually only temporary. But millions of German citizens suffer from chronic tinnitus. There is now hope for those affected: Scientists are testing whether neurofeedback training can help patients reduce the stress caused by phantom noises.
Ear noises can have different causes
Tinnitus causes can be very different. Stress is one of the main causes of ear noises.
But other factors, such as psychological problems or certain physical illnesses, can also trigger the unpleasant noise or ringing in the ears.
“In 80 percent of cases, acute tinnitus is resolved either by treating the causes or by itself. So the ear noise can subside completely, but it can remain, ”writes the German Tinnitus League on its website.
According to health experts, chronic tinnitus cannot be cured with medication, but there are various treatment methods that make it easier to deal with the disease and give patients more quality of life.
A working group from Marburg psychology is now testing whether neurofeedback training can help.
There is no cure for tinnitus
"The buzzing and hissing in my head is always there. In the cinema, while shopping, even when I go to sleep, ”said Martin Jensen in a statement from the Philipps University in Marburg.
The Danish psychologist has been living with tinnitus for seven years - and is now researching as a visiting scientist in Marburg a new method to alleviate the stress caused by phantom noises.
As explained in the release, tinnitus is a hearing disorder in which people hear sounds that are not due to an external sound event: the infamous ringing in the ear.
"Unfortunately there is currently no cure for tinnitus," says psychologist Dr. Cornelia Weise from the Philipps University, who heads the research project.
"Therefore, like a growing number of research groups worldwide, we are researching new ways to silence the ringing in the ears."
Neurofeedback offers such a novel treatment option, the effects of which the Marburg team and their cooperation partners from the “Eriksholm Research Center” research center are now researching.
"Tinnitus is a phantom sound," explains Jensen; "The constant ringing is caused by active neurons in the brain, although objectively there is no external noise."
Affected people watch their own brain activity
During neurofeedback, those affected watch their own brain activity, which is recorded by electrodes on the surface of the head and made visible on a screen.
The subjects train to gain control over brain processes that occur involuntarily under normal circumstances.
"With neurofeedback we hope to reduce the activity in the brain that is responsible for the generation of sustained noise perception," said Jensen.
Reducing ringing in the ear itself is only one of several effects that the research team hopes to achieve with the training. This should also influence how those affected perceive and evaluate their tinnitus.
"Some people live well with tinnitus and can ignore it, even if it is loud," explains Wise employee Eva Hüttenrauch; "Others with barely audible tinnitus, on the other hand, have great difficulty in resigning themselves to it."
Serious health consequences
The inability to accept your own tinnitus can lead to serious health consequences, such as sleep problems, difficulty concentrating or anxiety. But why is the disorder sometimes experienced as so stressful?
"Presumably, the parts of the brain that are responsible for processing emotions play a significant role," says Weise.
"We hope that with the neurofeedback training we will interrupt this so-called tinnitus stress network so that those affected can cope better with the constant noise in the head," explains her colleague Martin Jensen.
In addition to Cornelia Weise's working group and the “Eriksholm Research Center”, the Department of Otorhinolaryngology at the University Hospital Marburg is also participating in the cooperation. (ad)