New technology could help tinnitus sufferers

New technology could help tinnitus sufferers
Updated: Apr. 27, 2018 at 2:38 PM CDT
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(KFVS/CBS News) - Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, affects some 50 million Americans.

We asked Doctor Adam Morgan, an otolaryngologist, what causes it.

"It also can be flared up by noise, so if you sit too close to a speaker, you're going to have a lot of ringing for a day," Morgan said. "Every time you do that you're causing damage. So if you're exposed to loud noise at work on a daily basis, particularly the farmers, they all have tinnitus."

It can also be associated with losing hearing as you age. Currently, there are only some limited treatments available.

"There are a lot of hearing aid technologies that have noisemakers inside the hearing aids that allow us to use both amplification and the noisemakers that can give you the amplification and the frequencies that you don't hear but also the maskers to tune out the tinnitus," said Dr. Sarah Hickey, with Audiology Associates in Cape Girardeau.

Dr. Hickey also said for many people, the ringing noise is most prevalent at night when it is the quietest.

Now, there's some new technology that could help those who deal with this.

Nick Stein said he's tried just about everything to relieve the ringing in his ears.

"I tried masking, including having to have a fan on when I went to sleep, or having a machine that makes sounds, like the sound of rain or a burbling brook," he said.

His doctor suggested he try the Levo System.

Dr. Yu-Tung Wong, otolaryngologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, said the recently FDA-cleared therapy trains the brain to ignore the ringing.

"It's very difficult to say you are going to be able to make the sound disappear completely, what you're trying to do with most tinnitus therapies is make the sound more tolerable," Dr. Wong said.

The technology mimics the sound of a patient's tinnitus. The patient then listens to the sound on an iPod while sleeping for 90 nights non-stop. The brain becomes more accustomed to the sound over that time.

"At nighttime when you're sleeping, your brain is more plastic, it's more receptive to these kinds of changes," Dr. Wong said.

Nick Stein believes the sound of his ringing has been reduced by 50 percent.

"My mood has improved," he said, "my focus has improved."

He said he's grateful he can now go for days and hardly notices his tinnitus.

Copyright 2018 KFVS. All rights reserved. CBS also contributed to this story