Monday, March 19, 2012

A sight for sore ears

Posted By on 03.19.12 at 05:30 PM

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Good news for those who suffer from tinnitus (a common side effect of hearing damage), as well as for music lovers who depend on their ears for their livelihood and anyone else who asks a lot of their auditory system: very early tests out of the Tinnitus Clinic in London indicate that researchers may have found a cure for the condition, which has long been considered incurable. What's even more remarkable is that the therapy doesn't involve surgery or drugs or anything more invasive than wearing headphones playing a "series of tones tuned according to the characteristic frequency of the patient's tinnitus," which "'reset' auditory nerve cells in the brain to stop them misfiring," according to the Independent. And unlike past treatments, this one seems to actually remove the constant ringing that tinnitus sufferers hear, rather than teaching them to ignore it. So far it's only been tested on 63 subjects—though 2,000 or so have had this "Acoustic CR Neuromodulation" in Germany—but it's worked on 75 percent of them, and the results look to be long-lasting.

At the risk of lobbing a softball to the trolls in the comment section, I'll admit that I've inflicted a lot of damage on my ears over two decades of listening to and playing music, much of due to the misguided notion that wearing earplugs would somehow compromise the live-music experience. (Actually, with the right plugs, it can usually be improved.) I don't have any permanent damage that I'm aware of, but you'd best believe that when I accidentally leave my protection at home and end up with a ringing in my ears, I definitely wait with crossed fingers for it to finally wear off.

What's extra amazing about the treatment is that even in the early stages of development it costs only about £4,500, which even a musician—the sufferers who arguably stand to lose the most from tinnitus—could probably afford. If it becomes widespread, the price could drop even further.

Here's to hoping that I haven't just fallen asleep on the couch from post-SXSW exhaustion and dreamed the whole thing.

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