Will Gene Therapy Help Cure Tinnitus?

Will Gene Therapy Help Cure Tinnitus?

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Tinnitus, a condition where individuals hear persistent phantom sounds, is more prevalent than you might realize. The condition affects up to 50 million Americans, or 20 percent of the population. Tinnitus sounds can manifest differently depending on the individual—buzzing, whooshing, ringing, for example—and the severity can range from mild to debilitating. There are proven tinnitus treatment options, including sound or behavioral therapy, but some are unable to achieve complete rehabilitation from these methods. Fortunately, recent studies conducted in gene therapy have shown promise and may even lead to a cure for tinnitus and hearing loss.

While there are a number of potential causes of tinnitus, the majority of tinnitus cases are linked to hearing loss. Hearing health professionals theorize that as you lose the ability to hear certain frequencies, the brain compensates by increasing sound sensitivity or creating phantom sounds.

Studies in gene therapy have attempted to regenerate cells so the body can restore the hair cells responsible for transmitting sound to the brain. Through the regeneration of sensory receptors, an individual’s hearing can potentially normalize, thereby eliminating the presence of unwanted sounds. This method has proven successful in treating other animals, primarily guinea pigs and mice. Recently, researchers have begun doing pilot tests on human subjects. In 2014, a Denver native was among the first to receive the gene therapy treatment. Though the research is ongoing, the patient did tell The New York Times he was “hearing a new sound or hearing sound differently” than he had before.

Since the initial reports in early 2015, little has been shared about the progress of the pilot test. Researchers are still optimistic, however, and some are hoping for successful human treatments by 2025. If the scientific community is able to accomplish this feat, it would have a significant impact on the medical field and hearing health industry. Fortunately, there are many other successful options for tinnitus treatment. San Diego is equipped with premiere hearing health professionals who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of tinnitus and hearing loss. To schedule a consultation with an audiologist, we welcome you to contact our team at our Hillcrest office at (619) 298-8546 or in Clairemont at (858) 279-3277.

What’s the Best Way to Treat Your Tinnitus?

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If your life has been affected by tinnitus, a perception of sounds when no sound is present, then you understand what a drastic impact it can have on an individual’s well-being. Persistent and unwanted sounds can impede a person’s ability to perform their daily activities, cause sleep disorders and even lead to depression. Fortunately, there are a number of tinnitus treatment options that may bring relief. Many prominent forms of treatment fall under two categories, sound and behavioral therapy.

Sound Therapies

This method uses external sounds to help counteract the persistent noise caused by tinnitus. Some forms of sound therapies include sound masking, distraction, retraining and neuromodulation. A number of devices have been created for this purpose, including hearing aids, sound masking machines and notched-music devices. Sound masking typically offers temporary relief, while notched-music devices use habituation to help the patient become accustomed to the the sound and achieve relief over time.

Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral therapies can be used in conjunction with sound therapies or independently to alter an individual’s emotional reaction to their tinnitus symptoms. The presence of unwanted sounds can be emotionally challenging. Therapy can aim to reduce tinnitus-related anxiety or stress. By altering their reaction to the trigger, patients can more successfully dissociate from tinnitus’ negative effects. Some popular therapies include Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT), Tinnitus Activities Treatment (TAT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

So, what form of tinnitus treatment is right for you? While a spectrum of therapies and treatments exists, the ability to treat or manage tinnitus symptoms is dependent on the underlying issue. An audiologist will conduct a physical exam and learn more about your symptoms in order to determine the cause of the disorder. Your hearing care professional will then make a recommendation on which therapy or combination of therapies will be most effective. If you or a loved one is suffering from tinnitus, relief is possible. To learn more about tinnitus treatment, or to schedule a consultation with a local San Diego audiologist, contact our office at (619) 298-8546.