Tinnitus suppression using electrical stimulation

Heidi Olze 1 , Agnieszka J. Szczepek 2 , Uta Reich 2 , Stefan Gräbel 2 ,  and Florian Uecker 2
  • 1 Charité Universitaetsmedizin Berlin, Augustenburgerplatz 1,, Berlin, Germany
  • 2 Charité Universitaetsmedizin Berlin,, Berlin, Germany


Tinnitus is a phantom sound perceived only by the affected person. Although the causes for tinnitus may be very diverse (e.g. hearing loss, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, Meniere’s disease, otosclerosis), they all lead to pathological activation of the auditory pathway. Cochlear implants are electronic inner ear prostheses used to restore the hearing abilities of hard of hearing people. It has been noticed that the cochlear implants not only enable hearing but also reduce tinnitus that usually accompanies deafness and hearing loss. One of the likely mechanisms behind the latter phenomena is thought to be the unknown properties of electrical stimulus. This project was designed as a proof of concept for a device, which would be sending the tinnitus-suppressing electrical signal. To achieve this, the project was split into a preclinical part using experimental animals (guinea pigs) and a clinical trial part with tinnitus patients. In the preclinical part, together with Inomed Medizintechnik GmbH, we are testing the physical design and biocompatibility of anti-tinnitus implant. In the clinical part of the project, we use an electrical stimulation in the ear canal, through the eardrum (tinnitus patients), or via cochlear implant in a sample of cochlear implant patients (pre- and post-implantation). We ask the patients to mark the loudness of their tinnitus on a visual scale from 1 to 10 before, during and after routine electrical stimulation and quality of the tinnitus The results obtained during our preclinical and clinical testing as well as future plans will be presented and discussed.

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Current Directions in Biomedical Engineering is an open access journal and closely related to the journal Biomedical Engineering - Biomedizinische Technik. CDBME is a forum for the exchange of knowledge in the fields of biomedical engineering, medical information technology and biotechnology/bioengineering for medicine and addresses engineers, natural scientists, and clinicians working in research, industry, or clinical practice.