The strange tongue-zapping technique that quiets tinnitus

Researchers at the University of Minnesota are touting a brand-new breakthrough therapy for  tinnitus—or “ringing in the ears.”

Tinnitus affects 10-15 percent of people worldwide and can also cause annoying sounds like buzzing, humming, hissing, crackling or whistling in the ear. These sounds can come and go—or last for hours.

And as someone living with tinnitus, I know how frustrating and uncomfortable this condition can be. That’s why this new study caught my attention…

Is the secret to silence right on the tip of your tongue?

It’s the largest and longest clinical trial of its kind—studying 326 patients with tinnitus over the span of a year.

In this study, tinnitus was treated using wireless headphones that delivered sequences of audio tones layered with wideband noise to both ears. This was combined with electrical stimulation pulses delivered via a special device to 32 electrodes on the tip of the tongue.

Participants were instructed to use the device for 60 minutes a day for 12 weeks.

By the end of the study, about 86 percent of participants reported improvements in tinnitus symptom severity. And 66 percent reported experiencing sustained benefit a full year after the treatment had ended.

These results are impressive. Unfortunately, this “tongue zapping” therapy isn’t widely available to the public just yet. But until then, there are other natural ways to combat tinnitus…  

Sound solutions for tinnitus

Reducing stress, getting regular, high-quality sleep, and cutting back on alcohol are just a few simple ways to help silence tinnitus.

Additionally, using self-created sound to stimulate your vagus nerve has been shown in multiple studies to reduce tinnitus severity. I share that research and a full exercise here.

Take it from me—a lifelong, professional musician—not protecting your ears can wreak havoc on your hearing. But even if the damage has been done, there is new hope.

If you suffer with tinnitus, I encourage you to take steps today to reduce your symptoms and your stress.


Sources:

“Bimodal neuromodulation combining sound and tongue stimulation reduces tinnitus symptoms in a large randomized clinical study.” Science Translational Medicine 2020; 12 (564): eabb2830

“Nerve Stimulation + Repetitive Sounds Help Improve Hearing.” NewsWise (www.newswise.com), 8/14/19  

 “Pairing vagus nerve stimulation with tones drives plasticity across the auditory pathway.” Journal of Neurophysiology 2019; 122(2): 659 – 671.

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About the author

Jim Donovan M.Ed., is a professional musician and educator. He's an Assistant Professor at Saint Francis University where he teaches music and how the power of sound can help you experience a healthier life.