Aging is inevitable and every individual has to face its natural consequences, which includes hearing loss. The good news is, besides being lucky to have lived for more than 65 years or more, there is help available to address your concerns about hearing.
Role of your ears
Your ears help you with hearing and maintaining balance. When sound waves reach your eardrum, the vibrations are changed into nerve signals in the inner ear and are carried to the brain by the auditory nerve.
Your inner ears also control your balance, which is also often called as the equilibrium. Fluid and small hair-like cells in the inner ear stimulate the auditory nerve, which in turn help your body to stay in equilibrium.
As you age, structures inside the ear begin to change, and their functions decline. Your ability to pick up sounds decreases. You may also have problems maintaining your balance as you sit, stand, and walk.
Aging affects your five main senses
You receive information from your environment through your senses. This information can be in the form of sound, light, smells, tastes, and touch. Sensory information is converted into nerve signals that are carried to the brain. There, the signals are turned into meaningful sensations.
As you age, the way your senses (hearing, vision, taste, smell, touch) give you information about the world changes. Your senses become less sharp, and this can make it harder for you to notice details. Sensory changes lead to isolation because with age you may have problems communicating, enjoying activities, and staying involved with people.
A certain amount of stimulation is required before you become aware of a sensation. This minimum level of sensation is called the threshold. Aging raises this threshold; you need more stimulation to be aware of the sensation.
Hearing and vision are the two senses most affected with age. Using glasses and hearing aids, or lifestyle changes can improve your ability to hear and see.
Aging affects adaptation to different sound levels
Recent studies show that the ability of your brain to adapt to sound declines as we age. This may help explain why older people can have problems hearing in certain situations.
Neuroscientists at Western University in Canada* found that aging affects adaptation to sound-level in the human auditory cortex. They found that our brains become more sensitive to sounds as we age. This may lead to hearing challenges over a lifetime.
Interestingly, when the scientists examined the response of the auditory cortex to different sounds of groups of young and old people they responded differently to soft and loud sounds. The main conclusion was that older individuals do not adapt as well to their sound environment.
Older people are more "over-sensitive" to sounds
Imagine a young and an old individual attending the same rock concert.
Based on the finding of the above study, the young person’s brain would become less sensitive to relatively quiet sounds. This allows the listener to hear the relevant sounds (like a guitar riff) better without being distracted by those irrelevant sounds.
However, the older listener is over-sensitive to each sound, hearing both quiet and loud sounds all at once. The person cannot ignore or tune out irrelevant auditory information. Without the ability to reduce sensitivity to irrelevant sounds, the individual experiences hearing challenges.
One of the fundamental properties of the auditory system is to be able to adjust very quickly to any environment a person goes into. If you cannot do that anymore, it becomes overwhelming. So the experience is unpleasant and the older person is surrounded by annoying sounds.
This is the reason why older people would prefer quieter places and avoid a loud restaurant, or a busy festival, simply because it is very distracting.
Presbycusis (age-related hearing loss)
Age-related hearing loss is called presbycusis. If you are having trouble hearing, discuss your symptoms with your audiologist. One way to manage hearing loss is by getting fitted with hearing aids. Even though presbycusis is a natural progression, it is not identical to everyone. Factors like genetics, environmental exposures, and general health may affect the extent of it. At present there are no preventative measures known other than hearing protection (which we offer at our clinic).
Tinnitus is another common problem in older adults and as your audiologist, we at Tinnitus & Hearing Center of Arizona are here to help you. We're a Phoenix audiologist that has a wealth of experience with hearing loss, hearing testing, and tinnitus treatment. In fact, Dr. Rohe is one of the leading tinnitus experts in the US, and has developed his own method of tinnitus treatment, aptly named "The Rohe Method ®."
Questions? Feel free to give us a call at (480) 831-6159.
*Aging Affects Adaptation to Sound-Level Statistics in Human Auditory Cortex
Björn Herrmann, Burkhard Maess and Ingrid S. Johnsrude
Journal of Neuroscience 21 February 2018, 38 (8) 1989-1999; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1489-17.2018
As a musician, to create music, you fight noise!
During a live performance, you are surrounded by a myriad of sounds in various frequencies like the PA system, the amplifiers, sound from different instruments and of course the crowd singing along with you. The challenge is to be able to listen to your own instrument or voice in the midst of the cacophony.
Wedge speakers vs IEMs
For a long time, the traditional wedge-shaped speakers on stage, have been used. These speakers substantially increase the volume of one sound, so that you can hear it above all the competing noises. This just makes things worse and the musicians are exposed to unsafe sound levels.
During the 1980s, IEM's were introduced to address this issue.
IEM removes the need for floor monitors from the stage and significantly reduce onstage volume levels. With an in-ear personal monitor system, you can choose which sound you would like to hear, and the quality of the sound will be good. This would essentially mean that you get a studio-quality sound during a live performance.
In-ear monitors would help you preserve your voice if you are a singer because if you cannot hear your own voice, you strain the vocal cords and distorting the voice. In ear monitors for singers can "save your voice" if your singing voice tends to fatigue.
With wedges, you get intense feedback on stage as the amplified sound from a loudspeaker is picked up by a microphone and re-amplified. There is no feedback when you use IEMs and so enhances the experience.
One of the major advantages of IEMs is its small size compared to the wedges. They are portable and very easy to use. You can easily move on stage without having to worry about not hearing the sound properly. IEMs also empower you to have personal control of which sound you would like to hear. You can even choose to listen to one instrument in one ear and another in the other.
IEMs, therefore, help a musician to get a precise and controlled sound when performing. It dramatically buffers unwanted external noise such as drums and electric guitars. Also, it allows stereo sound similar to our natural listening environment. As a result, the sound you will hear will be clear, clean and of high performance. In ear monitors for drummers improve your technique, since you're able to hear everyone while you play at the volume level that's most appropriate for the song - not quietly enough so you can hear the band.
IEM systems include a transmitter, which transmits the monitor mix to a receiver. This receiver is connected to your earpiece.
IEMs prevent hearing loss
Besides improving the quality of the sound consistently, IEMs help with improved pitch perception and improved timing. It reduces feedback, vocal fatigue, portability, and sound levels. The audience, in turn, gets a good sound quality.
Most importantly, it prevents hearing loss as there is reduced exposure to loud noise.
The earpiece is vital. Often, they are custom molded to make it comfortable to wear and allow the sound to be sent directly into the inner ear. The customization provides a better seal and reduces noise almost by 25 to 34 dB. This means that loud onstage instruments, such as drum kits or guitar stacks, are less likely to cause hearing damage for onstage musicians.
Custom fit in ear monitors are tailor made - not only to your individual ear canal, but also depending on your requirements. The dynamic ones are used if you are a bassist or a drummer for example, for improved bass response. The other type, the balanced armature speakers delivers a more detailed sound that improves the treble performance, have a faster response and provide a flatter frequency response. Isolating the ear with silicone helps but this makes the performer feel detached from others. However, it protects the ears.
To prevent the sense of isolation, certain IEM systems embed a microphone in it, so that you can hear the music and crowd reaction in low volume.
We are experts in IEMs
If you are a musician, visit our audiology clinic, Tinnitus & Hearing Center of Arizona, for a hearing check and to learn about IEMs. As experts, we help you at every "stage."
Curious about how In-Ear Monitors could help your performance? We've fit hundreds of musicians for IEM's, including The Phoenix Symphony, members of Pink, Jimmy Eat World, Gin Blossoms, Night Ranger, and many more - from worship groups to rock bands to DJ's to Recording Engineers.
Call us at (480) 831-6159 to schedule a consultation and viewing of the IEM's we represent, fit, and service of the best brands on the market. Don't trust your ears to retail stores - get proper ear canal fitting by an Audiologist clinic in Scottsdale that knows musicians' needs so much that we're known as "The Musician's Clinic!"
At the onset of writing this blog post, I came across this interesting article in the Washington Post, mentioning that loss of hearing is an inevitable cost of war. Soldiers think that it is a small price to pay when compared with the loss of appendages, PTSD or death.
Well, this is not true!
Military hearing loss is debilitating and severely affects the quality of life of both the sufferer and the people around them. Furthermore, veterans may also suffer from tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Hearing loss due to military service can induce a lifetime of suffering, whether tinnitus or hearing damage. Hearing loss as a military disability is even considered in lawsuits brought by several veterans.
It takes 7 years to seek help
Incredibly, the average time between someone noticing hearing damage and getting help for it is 7 years. Soldiers do not seek help for various reasons and choose to live with the problem, rather than getting help.
Exposure to blasts affects central auditory processing
Studies (Theodoroff et al 2015) show that the nature of auditory complaints by blast-exposed military personnel appears to be different from those not affected by blasts. This is because blasts damage neural structures (including the auditory cortex, corpus callosum, and other neuronal pathways) causing CAPD (central auditory processing deficits) without necessarily damaging the eardrum.
Doctors know that an individual with traumatic brain injuries would have very complex issues. More often, a comprehensive audiological evaluation is delayed or not carried out because the life-threatening concerns are addressed first. This leads to treatment delay.
Assessment is difficult because, in case of a traumatic brain injury, there are other issues such as motivation, attention, cooperation, cognition, neuronal loss, noise toxicity, metabolic and circulatory changes.
Treatment options for military personnel are multidisciplinary and any solution mentioned here in this article would sound very simplistic and straightforward. Military personnel, are not only affected physically but also mentally. They undergo various tests and therapies depending on the trauma they were exposed to.
In situations where hearing loss and tinnitus both exist, amplification using hearing aids are beneficial. It would help with improved communication as well as reduce tinnitus-related problems.
Personalized tinnitus management programs are very useful and should be considered. Scientists believe there is a correlation between depression, anxiety, and insomnia and the severity of tinnitus. Tinnitus therapies combined with antidepressants have helped some veterans who are chronic sufferers of tinnitus.
Hearing damage for military veterans is more common than you might think. If you've served in the military, know that we appreciate your service, and would be honored to serve you in treating your hearing loss and/or tinnitus.
Please contact us at the Tinnitus & Hearing Center of Arizona and set up an appointment either online via Skype or in our Tempe, Arizona clinic to discuss your treatment options. (480) 831-6159.
In 2016, Oticon Medical introduced its Opn™ hearing aid, which offers Multi-Speaker Access Technology (MSAT) in Oticon’s OpenSound Navigator™ (OSN).
Oticon OpenSound Navigator (OSN)
The Open Sound Navigator (OSN) is a technology that removes excessive background noise in a split second so you can focus on what’s important. It also assists you to locate the exact direction from where the sound is coming.
OSN is a noise reduction algorithm consisting of three modules - Analyze, Balance, and Noise Removal. These three together identifies the direction of the exact speech, sharpens it and then amplifies it.
Multi-Speaker Access Technology (MSAT)
MSAT technology is a BrainHearing™ technology. BrainHearing™ technology is a feature that emulates the way your brain normally processes a sound.
To understand further, imagine a normal hearing person, trying to listen to Julie talking about her vacation, in a busy restaurant. The brain would quickly work in four stages. Firstly, it will orient itself to the noisy place; secondly, it would distinguish Julie's voice from the rest. Thirdly, the brain would focus on the exact words spoken, and finally, it will rebalance the sounds and help distinguish every word clearly.
Speech in Noise (SIN)
If you suffer from hearing loss and even though you use a hearing aid, you may find it frustrating to understand speech in noise (SIN). If you tried to listen to Julie in that busy restaurant, it would probably be difficult to be able to distinguish Julie's speech from others talking in the room. Most hearing aids cannot effectively filter the speech in noise.
The new Oticon hearing aids with BrainHearing™ technology help to mimic exactly what the brain normally does, which means it can extract the speech in noise.
MSAT technology is an extraordinary application used in hearing aids. It selectively reduces disturbing noises while maintaining access to all distinct speech sounds. It does not isolate one voice, instead maintains access to all distinct speakers. It frees the capacity of the brain to store and recall information.
Advantages of OSN and MSAT technology
Listening is where hearing meets the brain. Listening effort is higher in a noisy environment. More cognitive processes need to be engaged in a noisy environment in order to recognize speech. To be able to actually ignore the surrounding noise, and understand the meaning of the words spoken, is not that easy!
Comparison of the ‘giving –up’ recent study observed the listening effort of two groups of people, one with OSN and the other with a non-OSN hearing aid. These two groups were compared with the normal hearing group in the study.
They used a method called pupillometry that measured pupil dilation as a reaction to stress.
The idea was, to see at what point do people ‘give up’ trying to listen. Giving up happens if the task becomes too difficult and the benefit does not outweigh the listening effort required.
Using Open Sound Navigator (OSN) is as good as normal. Normal-hearing listeners were able to focus till -4 dB SNR (signal to noise ratio) after which they started giving up. The OSN group had a very similar experience but the non-OSN group gave up much sooner.
Further research like the SWIR Test (Sentence-Final Word Identification and Recall) and speech recognition showed that the OSN algorithm significantly improves memory for speech heard in noise and better speech understanding in noise.
The processing speed of the new BrainHearing™ technology is 50 times faster than the previous generation of essential hearing aids. It delivers high-resolution sound quality to improve speech understanding.
All these data support the fact that OSN technology is efficient.
2. Useful if you have tinnitus
A study by Jensen in 2018 reported that OSN significantly reduced listening effort for people with tinnitus. Usually, when the pupil dilation test is carried out in people with tinnitus, they display severe stress and fatigue. With OSN, their stress level reduced and they needed less effort to listen.
3. High user satisfaction
Based on feedback to questionnaires distributed to regular OSN users, user satisfaction is high. The ON app that comes with the hearing aid, make it very easy to use. It allows them to expend less effort, have better recall, and better speech understanding in noisy environments.
This technology empowers the user to actively participate in social situations in the same way as their normal-hearing peers.
As already mentioned, the ON App makes the Oticon hearing aids very user-friendly. Besides the OSN, MSAT and BrainHearing™ features, there is another additional feature called HearingFitness™ that optimizes the hearing health behavior. It monitors the duration of wearing the hearing aid and prompts you to reach your goals. It also tracks the noise levels of places you frequently visit.
There are many easy to use features that make it very attractive. It is small in size and comes in a variety of styles that you can choose from. It also has a long battery life and can be connected online, with Bluetooth. These features are useful if you are traveling or if you want to check your user behavior.
5. Recommended for first-time users
According to Oticon Medical, this range of hearing aids is the “smallest hearing aid style Oticon has ever produced,” making it very attractive to first-time users.
Clinicians can encourage people using the Opn™ hearing aids to explore listening and social situations they may have avoided or given up on in the past. HearingFitness is another feature that would attract the first time user.
The Oticon technologies and diligent research continue to impress us at Tinnitus & Hearing Center of Arizona, and it's one of our leading hearing aid brands that we recommend, fit, and service. We currently offer a 30-day free trial of Oticon hearing aids and other brands, so if you think these could be a good fit for you or your loved one, we encourage you to contact our office at (480) 831-6159.
The Signia Notch Therapy hearing aid promises significant relief from Tinnitus, in addition to outstanding hearing aid amplification.
For decades, sufferers have been traumatized by the constant ringing noise in the ears and the effect of any therapy can sometimes be short-lived. An effective respite from this condition is welcome news.
Tinnitus is when you hear noises that are not caused by an outside source. There may be a constant or intermittent ringing, buzzing, throbbing sound in one or both ears or in the head. Clearly, this is a very annoying condition. It can occur due to many reasons including exposure to loud noise or an ear infection.
Tinnitus can be broadly grouped into two categories – tonal and non-tonal tinnitus. The former is more common where you experience a constant sound of a well-defined frequency, similar to whistling, ringing or buzzing. The non-tonal has a different pattern, with varied frequencies similar to humming, clicking and rumbling.
Tinnitus takes away the basic joy of listening, to anything that is enjoyable and enriching. Your quality of life can deteriorate and it is therefore important to seek help from a qualified audiologist.
The Signia Notch Therapy aims to solve just that. To quote the company website:
"As a leading manufacturer and innovator of hearing aids, our philosophy revolves around improving the quality of life for people with hearing difficulties, including tinnitus."
Three tinnitus therapies
The use of a hearing aid is one of the best ways to get relief from hearing conditions. For the first time, a hearing aid contains a built-in system called the Notch Therapy that is able to not only reduce the effects of tinnitus, but claim to completely remove it. The technology enables to amplify sounds and improve hearing and provide a range of solutions to alleviate the effects of tinnitus.
This is fantastic news!
To elaborate further, the Signia hearing aid provides three options for you to help with tinnitus. The first two options are based on the principle that a continuous pleasant and relaxing sound would override the rings and the buzz that you experience. Gradually, the brain ‘un-learns’ the tinnitus noise and the replaced gentle sound help you to relax and concentrate. The third option is the new technology where you can use a mobile app to teach your brain to ignore the repetitive ring.
Static noise tinnitus therapy signals – A continuous soft sound in the ear distracts you effectively from the tinnitus buzz, providing the much-needed relief. You are able to relax and enjoy life using this therapy. The hearing aid has a range of five preset signals to form a static noise, and the healthcare professional customizes the signal to your specific needs. This signal produces a sound that merges with the frequency of the tinnitus noise and quickly, you are able to hear, only the softer tune.
Ocean wave tinnitus therapy signals – A slight modification of the previous therapy, the aim of this version is to replicate the tranquil effect of the ocean sound waves to alleviate tinnitus. The experts will help you identify which one of four frequencies is the most soothing and favorable for you. Again, you will be happily distracted away from the annoying buzz in your ears and only hear the soothing ocean waves instead.
Signia Notch Therapy – If you suffer from tonal tinnitus, then the Notch Therapy is for you. This built-in therapy does not use another sound wave like the previous two. Using your hearing aid for a few weeks will potentially treat your tinnitus noticeably, without any external noise and obstruction.
This therapy is very unique. There is no external stimulation involved in this process. The Signia Notch Therapy hearing aid is all that you need, and for your audiologist to spend some time with you on a consultation to determine the exact frequency of your tonal tinnitus. Amplification of the hearing aids is done as normal to your specific hearing test, with the exception of your tinnitus frequency, which is then reduced so that it is integrated harmoniously into the overall background sound.
According to Signia, Notch therapy within their hearing aid models can reduce the effects of tinnitus and may even make it disappear completely. According to a recent study, 65 percent of patients experienced an improvement.
Continuous use of the aid for a few months will lead to relegating the tinnitus sounds into the background. The constant ring and buzz will gradually fade and the brain ‘learns’ to take no notice of tinnitus.
The Signia hearing aids are widely available in a range of small, discreet styles for every form of hearing loss. There is a model to meet your needs and it is very convenient to use. The technology can be utilized through an app on your mobile phone.
For more details on this amazing technology, see the Signia website here.
If you suffer from tinnitus, please contact us at the Tinnitus & Hearing Center of Arizona and ask for your treatment options including the Signia Notch Therapy Hearing Aid. (480) 831-6159.
Some of us experience discomfort or pain in our ears during flying. It happens mainly during ascent and descent, or if the altitude changes suddenly. It almost feels like the ear is blocked and we cannot hear properly. This phenomenon is commonly called ‘Airplane Ear’.
‘Airplane Ear’ is very common. It is usually quite moderate and fixes itself in many cases. However, it may turn severe and the pain may get worse. The pressure in the ears may resemble that of an underwater diver. Furthermore, you may experience moderate to severe hearing loss, ringing in your ear (tinnitus) or spinning sensation (vertigo). The ears may also bleed in extreme cases.
Why does it happen?
This happens because a rapid change in air pressure stretches the eardrum, suddenly.
We need to understand two aspects here. First, the structure of the ear and second, what happens to the air pressure during ascent and descent.
If we look at the structure of the ear, below, we can see a narrow passage in the inner ear called the Eustachian tube that regulates the air pressure. What we cannot see in the illustration is that this tube is connected to the nasopharynx which is a small opening where the throat and the nasal passage meet. The ear, nose, and throat are therefore connected exactly there. When the surrounding air pressure is normal, mostly on land, the tympanic membrane or the eardrum behaves normally and responds to sound and airwaves accordingly.
Air pressure and how it affects the ear
A rapid change in altitude creates an instant difference in air pressure between inside and outside the ear. When your flight takes off and the plane begins to ascend, the air pressure inside the inner ear quickly becomes greater than the outside air pressure. The eardrum then swells outward. Imagine a cake rising inside the oven while baking. This causes discomfort and you feel that your ear is ‘blocked’.
The opposite happens while landing. The pressure inside the inner ear rapidly becomes less than outside and the eardrum goes inward. Imagine a vacuum pulling in all the air that causes stretching of the eardrum and flattening of the Eustachian tube. This results in extreme discomfort and also pain.
Often, a quick swallowing or yawning action alleviates the symptoms because it allows the Eustachian tube to open up and restore the air pressure to normal levels. We feel that the ear has just ‘popped’.
Sometimes it is not that easy. It becomes more painful during descent if you have any other condition like congestion of the nose or swelling due to infection. The air gets trapped in the area behind the eardrum putting pressure on it giving rise to excruciating pain.
What can you do?
If you have any questions, you're welcome to contact us for more details at the Tinnitus & Hearing Center of Arizona at (480) 831-6159.
If you have realized that lately you're missing some words from conversations, you have to be in a quiet place to be able to clearly listen to the person talking to you, or while listening to music you feel like sound is muffled somehow, then you might be experiencing hearing loss to a certain degree. If you have decided is time to find out whether your hearing is compromised, then you may consider visiting a leading Tempe audiologist at Tinnitus & Hearing Center of Arizona, where you can get some clarity on your hearing performance and start a treatment that will be effective for your lifestyle and budget.
If you're in doubt, consider that usually people that sense a certain degree of hearing loss tend to delay their visit to a qualified doctor for as long as 10 years to get testing done, which is completely counterproductive and puts at risk the overall health of the individual as hearing loss can cause other issues on a person’s everyday life.
Taking a Hearing Test
In order to start your path for a better living and to determine if you are suffering hearing loss you must take a hearing test at an audiologist clinic (like Tinnitus and Hearing Center of Arizona). As your audiologist, we will perform hearing tests that will help determine what type of hearing loss you have and how much hearing ability has been lost .
If you have already visited an audiologist and want a second opinion, you may take an online test that The National hearing test has made available at a small cost, though not as accurate as a clinical hearing test.
Choose the right audiologist
At the Tinnitus and Hearing Center, we are very committed to helping our patients find the best way to treat their hearing problems as we offer a wide variety of hearing aid brands and other assistive pieces of technology that can help you with your current situation. You can rest assured that we have taken care of many patients that have been very satisfied with the service we have provided and how accurate and precise our approach has been.
We will have you try at least two different hearing aids (or as many you need to find the most comfortable one) in order to find the one that fits your needs perfectly. We'll also take time to fit it and find the right configuration for you as we need to make sure after you decide on one specific hearing aid to cover all your needs, that is why these have a testing period before you complete your purchase. We will set the different configurations and you will inform us which one is the best for you.
In order to find the best fitting hearing aid for you, know that the hearing aid can only do so much and realistic expectations have to be made.
For more information or to schedule an appointment contact us at (480) 831-6159 or visit our website at https://www.tinnitusaz.com/.
A start-up in Ireland has developed a totally fresh concept for treating tinnitus, and it's one that employs a fascinating technology.
Now, it hasn't come to market yet, so we can't get too excited. But know that we at Tinnitus & Hearing Center of Arizona are watching this development closely.
Most people know tinnitus as 'ringing in the ears.' Some sufferers hear a high-pitched droning noise, whereas others might describe it as more of a buzz, hiss, or whoosh. 'Tinnitus' is the formal medical terminology, but whatever you call it, it's certainly something that can wreak havoc on a person's life. They might have trouble sleeping, working, socializing, or even focusing on basic activities.
At the time of writing, no medical solution is known. On the other hand, Neuromod Devices, an Irish tech start-up, is rolling out a brand-new product that has the potential to provide breakthroughs in tinnitus treatment.
The name of the product is Mutebutton. Ross O'Neill is a neuroscientist who oversaw the development after spending six years at the Hamilton Institute at NUI Maynooth looking into a number of neuromodulation technologies prior to starting up a business in 2010.
In a little more than four short years, Neuromod Devices has plowed through the many regulatory, medical, and logistical challenges necessary. Their product is already available to those in the Irish Market.
O'Neill says that Mutebutton is a totally fresh way to treat tinnitus. Other various technologies are able to offer sufferers relief, but only when the specific devices are used. Alternatively, Mutebutton is able to generate genuine improvement in the condition of a patient.
Tinnitus happens both as a chronic condition and a temporary one. It can get induced due to underlying disease, although many times it's simply a matter of hearing loss that happens with age.
People of any age can suffer tinnitus, but adults over the age of 50 have double the odds of having it. Everyone has hair cells in their inner ears which turn physical sound waves into the neural impulses the brain uses to 'listen'. These hair cells get damaged over the passage of time.
In Ireland alone, roughly 45,000 individuals suffer from this affliction, according to the Irish Tinnitus Association.
The UK also has a similar association, projecting that 1 in 10 Brits of adult age are impacted. The association of the United States has a higher estimate of 15 percent of their population, meaning more than 20 million citizens suffer the condition to the level of being debilitated.
Tinnitus isn't just a matter of noise, either. Frequently-seen auxiliary symptoms include loss of sleep, anxiety, and even depression.
O'Neill goes on to say that he's spent almost a decade developing the treatment, and the goal was always to find something minimally invasive out of consideration to the patients. He was hopeful of avoiding implantation through surgery.
Every year across Europe and the United States, 12 million patients consult their physicians about clinically significant levels or conditions of tinnitus. Also, between aging populations and growing volumes of exposure to sounds, it's turning into a worldwide phenomenon that's anticipated to grow in the near future.
One way that tinnitus can be treated is by diverting the attention of the brain away from the sound or noise of the condition. Having said that, quite a few of the current masking devices utilized for this are unisensory and unfortunately not that effective.
Mutebutton is different, because it's a multi-sensory treatment which mixes soothing sounds along with mild stimulation of particular tongue nerves.
The mix of these two employs multi-sensory integration, which is one of the human brain's natural phenomena, so that it can learn how to better discern real sounds from fake ones.
Mutebutton has a small control unit, a tiny tongue pad, and a headphone set. Users should spend half an hour a day with it for at least 10 weeks in order to see results.
The Hermitage Clinic in Dublin carried on clinical studies in partnership with NUI Maynooth. This research demonstrated that the Mutebutton device can lower the volume of tinnitus by nearly half.
The development involved the collaboration of numerous experts. One of them was Caroline Hamilton, a tinnitus specialist and clinical audiologist. Stephen Hughes is a design engineer who also helped and also an MIT colleague of O'Neill back when he was employed there in the research department. Finally, Brendan Conlon, a senior ENT surgeon from St James's and Tallaght Hospitals helped out with contributions as well.
O'Neill claims that it's simple to make prototypes, but the real difficulty is scaling things up for high levels of manufacturing. He's happy that Mutebutton is being made in his hometown of Dublin, Ireland.
In every market, the company is using both B2B and B2C vectors. Given how very creative this device is, the public needs to learn about it, but so too do the medical community and possible distribution networks.
The company has a current emphasis on getting Mutebutton off of the ground, but that's not to say that Neuromod is a one-hit wonder.
Tinnitus is only one of many chronic conditions that creative neurostimulation technologies might be able to help out with.
Mutebutton is certainly a stable technology platform, and it might be used for quickly developing and evaluating a variety of different neuromodulatory interventions. It's a core technology that is likely to be the foundation for many new products that can provide valuable market openings due to clinical needs that aren't currently being met at a global level.
O'Neill won't get into specifics, other than to say the same technology might work in circumstances of neuro circuits 'misbehaving'. These can include situations of illusory perceptions, tremors, and spasms.
Mutebutton's development enjoyed financial support by Enterprise Ireland, the Higher Education Authority, and Science Foundation Ireland. Several million in both seed and angel capital also helped, and the company is now enjoying a positive revenue stream.
Again, this product is still in the research and development phase, but we're watching this company carefully. Feel free to contact us for updates and to discuss all your tinnitus treatment options at (480) 831-6159.
Our patient, Lt. Colonel Ralph "Slick" Aguirre, USAF (Retired) started his career in aviation flying Huey helicopters in Vietnam at the age of eighteen. He went on to fly F-15 fighter jets in the US Air Force. From there he transitioned into a civilian career in aviation flying for Southwest Airlines. The years he spent in aviation started to seriously affect his ears. The situation reached the point where he grounded himself from flying any longer, for fear it was no longer possible without causing further damage to his ears. Slick arrived at our clinic looking for any possible help. We're happy to report that we have Slick flying again and he couldn't be happier. Slick graciously offered Dr. Rohe the opportunity of a lifetime to fly in this plane as a way of saying thanks for treating his tinnitus and keeping him up in the air. He recently told Dr. Rohe that all the time he spent flying was the equivalent of three full years in the air. That is quite an accomplishment.
The plane pictured below is a Pilatu PC-7, a turboprop with 750hp. If you are a pilot or a frequent flier that suffers from tinnitus, know that with the right guidance, you can absolutely keep flying! Thank you Slick.
Dr. Rohe is a nationally-recognized audiologist specializing in Tinnitus Therapy and other hearing conditions.