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New smartphone app developed for tinnitus

The University of Auckland has reported encouraging findings from a clinical trial of a new mobile phone-based therapy, following a 20-year search for a cure for tinnitus. In this study, a total of 61 patients were randomly assigned to the prototype of a new ‘digital polytherapeutic’ or a widely used self-help application that generates white noise.

This is according to a study recently published in the journal Frontiers in neurology, only the group receiving the polytherapeutic treatment (consisting of 31 subjects) had clinically relevant improvements after 12 weeks, while the other group (consisting of 30 subjects) did not. Researchers are excited because they believe this innovation could have a direct impact on tinnitus treatment in the future due to these optimistic results.

Tinnitus is a common medical condition that affects about 15% of the population. Among them, about 1% of individuals experience severe symptoms that significantly affect their quality of life. The condition in question is distinguished by the presence of a continuous auditory perception of ringing, buzzing or humming in the ears, which can cause significant distress and proves to be a formidable challenge to effectively address. At this time, the medical community has not discovered a definitive cure for tinnitus and the interventions available are mainly aimed at symptom management.

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For the past two decades, a global community of researchers has been actively researching potential treatments for tinnitus, with modest results so far. The clinical trial conducted at the University of Auckland has shown promising prospects for individuals suffering from the above-mentioned condition.

Essentially what this therapy does is rewire the brain in a way that de-emphasizes the sound of the tinnitus to a background noise that has no meaning or relevance to the listener,” says Dr. Searchfield.

According to Dr. Phil Sanders, a research associate in audiology, “65 percent of participants reported an improvement. For some people it was life-changing – with tinnitus taking over their lives and attention.”

Grant Searchfield, an associate professor of audiology and a tinnitus expert with more than 20 years of experience, led the study. Professor Searchfield claims the trial was set up to evaluate a new mobile phone-based therapy that targets a number of elements that contribute to the disease.

The proposed ‘digital polytherapeutic’ prototype is a versatile intervention that integrates different therapeutic modalities, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, sound therapy and mindfulness techniques. Therapy delivery is facilitated through a mobile application, which can be customized to meet the unique needs of each patient.

To evaluate the efficacy of the therapy, a randomized controlled trial was conducted by the research team. The trial included 61 participants diagnosed with tinnitus who were randomly assigned to the polytherapeutic treatment or a self-help application that produces white noise and is widely used. The participants were assessed 4, 8 and 12 weeks after the start of treatment.

Example screenshots for (A) the USL Intervention (i) Menu, (ii) Passive Therapy Sounds, (iii) AOIL Task, (iv) Tracking Task. (B) The WN intervention. (i) Menu, (ii) Passive Therapy Sounds, (iii) Sound Control, (iv) Sound Mixing. (CREDIT: University of Auckland and The Brighter Side)

The study’s findings showed a high degree of promise. After 12 weeks, the cohort receiving polytherapeutic treatment showed remarkable clinical improvements, while the other cohort showed no comparable progress. The study revealed remarkable improvements in tinnitus severity, mental health and quality of life.

“This is more important than some of our previous work and is likely to have a direct impact on future treatment of tinnitus,” says Associate Professor of Audiology Grant Searchfield.

The study’s findings have sparked enthusiasm among medical professionals, who have a positive view of the new therapy’s potential to serve as a major advancement in tinnitus treatment.

The research was funded by the University of Auckland and Tinnitracks, a Germany-based company specializing in digital therapies for tinnitus. The Tinniwell platform used in the study was developed by Tinnitracks. This platform is an extension of their existing Tinnitracks therapy, with additional features and enhancements tailored to the New Zealand market.

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Amir Hussain

Amir Hussain is the founder of Freemium World, a geek by nature and a professional Blog writer . I love to write about new technology trends, social media, hacking, blogging and much more.

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