NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Tinnitus affects 50 million Americans. It’s commonly called ringing in the ears, but it can bring other sounds like whooshing, hissing, whistling, buzzing and humming, and there’s no cure for the annoying, sometimes debilitating problem.
But there’s now new technology that is helping alleviate the symptoms.
Nick Stein says he has tried just about everything to relieve the ringing in his ears.
“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,” Stein said.
So his doctor suggested he try the Levo System. Dr. Yu-Tung Wong of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles says the recently FDA-cleared therapy trains the brain to ignore the ringing.
“It’s very difficult to say that you are going to be able to make the sound disappear completely. What you’re trying to do with most tinnitus treatments is make the sound more tolerable,” 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,” Wong said.
Stein said his perception of the ringing sound has been reduced by 50 percent.
“My mood has improved. My focus has improved,” he said.
And he said he’s grateful he can now go for days and hardly notice his tinnitus.
Conventional tinnitus-masking systems produce sounds that distract the sufferer. The Levo system may actually re-wire the brain so that it can ignore the tinnitus. It’s not a cure, but it could be a relief.