In a new paper in Science Translational Medicine, a team from the University of Michigan reports the results of the first animal tests and clinical trial of the approach, including data from 20 human tinnitus patients.

Based on years of scientific research into the root causes of the condition, the device uses precisely timed sounds and weak electrical pulses that activate touch-sensitive nerves, both aimed at steering damaged nerve cells back to normal activity.

Human participants reported that after four weeks of daily use of the device, the loudness of phantom sounds decreased, and their tinnitus-related quality of life improved.

A sham "treatment" using just sounds did not produce such effects.

U-M holds a patent on the concept behind the device and is developing it for potential commercialization.

"When the main neurons in this region, called fusiform cells, become hyperactive and synchronize with one another, the phantom signal is transmitted into other centers where perception occurs.

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