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hopeful developments in tinnitus research

More than 2.5 million Dutch people suffer from tinnitus.

Tinnitus can have major negative effects on quality of life through sleep deprivation, communication problems, anxiety, irritability, concentration problems, depression or in extreme cases suicidal thoughts or actions. Many tinnitus sufferers no longer manage to fully participate in society. The total average social costs of tinnitus for the Dutch population amount to many billions of euros, for example due to loss of labor productivity and share in the total Dutch health care expenditure (*).

Tinnitus is perceived as an audible sound, but it is the brain that generates the sound.

The prevailing view is that tinnitus is exclusively a result of hearing damage. It is one of the main causes, but Tinnitus has dozens of ‘triggers’. Skeletal fracture, neck trauma, high blood pressure, diabetes, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s, otitis media, otosclerosis and stress are a few.

Attention to the patient

In the recent public doomsday scenarios about hearing damage, the patient is snowed under. On the one hand, the impression is created that people with tinnitus have a lifelong trauma, which need not be the case. On the other hand, there is a chronic lack of funds for groundbreaking research that could lead to a cure for tinnitus.

We’re working hard on solutions.

We want to focus this Tinnitus week on hope. That is why we provide an overview of (the progress in) medical research in which the TinnitusFree Foundation is involved.

Multimodal Stimulator

At the interface of neuroscience and bioelectronics, work is currently underway on a so-called multimodal stimulator. A special type of earplug (‘earpiece’) provides simultaneous stimulation of both the vagus nerve and the auditory cortex. The idea behind it is that simultaneous stimulation trains the brain to exclude tinnitus from the consciously perceived audiological spectrum. Read here how this works (English article). And read here the graduation report of ir. Alessandro Barbon-Pedrina, who did the research within TinnitusHouse. He built the first prototype (see photo) of the stimulator. The further development of this prototype will start no later than mid-February into a version that is so robust that we can test it on patients. A number of large electronics companies are following this research closely, in order to investigate the possibilities of developing an Earbud-like application if it is successful.

In February, the TinnitusFree Foundation will donate five thousand euros for this research.

Making Tinnitus Objectively Measurable In The Brain

Some diseases can be demonstrated through a blood test or medical imaging techniques, making these ‘invisible diseases’ tangible. Other disorders such as tinnitus are difficult or impossible to objectify, which does not mean that they do not exist.

This is a potentially groundbreaking medical research study into objective measurement of tinnitus. It is a collaboration between prof. dr. Dirk De Ridder, prof. dr. Sven Vanneste and dr. Marco Congedo of the Universities of Otago, Texas, Dublin and Grenoble. They published in the leading journal “Nature Communications” that they can use artificial intelligence and machine learning to demonstrate with 88% certainty whether someone has ringing in the ears or not, based on an electroencephalogram (EEG). the follow-up study with quantitative EEG (qEEG) not only allows them to localize the source of brain activity, but also maps a complete functional network.More information can be found here.

A successful outcome of this study will make tinnitus objectively measurable. This will greatly accelerate treatment research and encourage healthcare and industry to invest in tinnitus treatment.

Below you can see activity of tinnitus in the brain in the recent qEEG of yours truly.

[Source: TinnitusFree]

Virtual Reality & Tinnitus

Antinnitus is a treatment method to cure tinnitus through Virtual Reality and neurofeedback. In this way, NeuroVR aims to tackle the most common types of tinnitus and return the silence to the people. Our partner TMI Investments finances the development of this treatment method. Tinnitus patients can submit an application to participate as a participant in one of the studies via

First trials are promising

VR creates a new inclusive world in which the brain takes what is perceived as real and reacts accordingly. Through this visualization one can understand what is happening, but miraculously enough one can also exert influence. The first study of NeuroVR showed that when you restore the connection in VR from a broken nerve pathway, the brain reacts very strongly to this and the tinnitus that was associated with it temporarily turns off. 50% percent of the patients experienced a significant reduction in tinnitus and of this group again 50% of the people experienced silence. The tinnitus was gone for a while, only to return after about 5 to 10 seconds. The follow-up aims to predict, control and replicate these dynamics, creating a training of the brain in which the tinnitus signal can be slowly released.

virtual reality tinnitus
[Source: TinnitusFree]

Big Data / Crowd Wisdom Research

This research is carried out by TinnitusHouse in which TinnitusFree is one of the partners. The study now has more than 1750 participants. TinnitusHouse wants to extract patterns from the data of tinnitus patients who participate in the big data/crowd wisdom study, which are clear indicators for a tinnitus remedy. After completing the survey, participants receive a personal message from the Recommender system, which provides useful tips for patients to try out.

The so-called xAI has recently been used within TinnitusHouse to develop a system that can recommend relieving treatments to tinnitus patients based on their personal characteristics, such as lifestyle, diet and co-morbidity (the simultaneous occurrence of two or more conditions in one person). . This system is being developed by Bauke Risselada, under the supervision of Remi Brandt, University of Groningen.

Tinnitus patients can participate in this study via this link, or by surfing to

Music creator tinnitus research

In February, the TinnitusFree Foundation will start a study into tinnitus among music makers. The aim of the study is to: (1) gain insight into the problem of tinnitus among music creators (2) obtain an indication of the percentage of music creators who have tinnitus (3) learn more about the impact of tinnitus on music makers, or the way in which this affects their professional practice, their hobby and their entire life. The questionnaire has been drawn up in collaboration with various international scientists, musicians and research agencies.

Music makers can soon sign up for the study, follow the website or social media of TinnitusFree. The personal data of the participants will be anonymized.

You can pre-register by sending an email to You will receive a link to participate by email this month.

[Source: Frank van Hoorn / TinnitusFree]