New ACR treatment gives tinnitus a taste of its own medicine

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A Harley Street Clinic is offering a new treatment to tinnitus patients, which involves playing sounds to them which match the phantom noises they hear in their ear, and tricks the auditory brain cells into not creating them.

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Acoustic Coordinated Reset (ACR) has been found to help around 7 out of 10 tinnitus patients who try the therapy, said the British Tinnitus Association.

As many as 10% of the population may suffer from tinnitus in a mild form – but the elderly and those affected by industrial noise are most affected by the sound of ringing and buzzing noises in their ears, which can be loud and constant in some cases.

More cases of tinnitus are also being diagnosed among those working in the music industry – and among music lovers who attend live music events or listen to loud music without using ear protection.

Treatments so far use psychological therapies to help sufferers cope, or music therapies using the sound of waves played to tinnitus sufferers to help block out the constant ringing or buzzing.

Researchers have now discovered that by playing tones which match the sounds tinnitus sufferers hear constantly, the noise prevents auditory brain cells from creating the tinnitus sounds.

ACR works by retraining the auditory brain cells to “unlearn” the process of creating the phantom tinnitus noises – and trials using the new therapy and a placebo therapy proved that ACR could reduce the severity of tinnitus symptoms.

The Tinnitus Clinic in Harley Street is charging £4,500 for ARC treatment, which involves tinnitus patients choosing the tone which matches their phantom sounds and having these played to them through headphones for four to six hours a day for 12 weeks. The patient then “rests” for 4 weeks before a further 22 weeks of intermittent ACR therapy.

Lead researcher Professor Peter Tass from the Jülich Research Centre in Germany said that many of the 63 tinnitus patients in the experiment found that their symptoms were halved. The placebo therapy either did not work or produced “limited” and insignificant results.

The Tinnitus Clinic is funding a larger trial with Nottingham University and it is hoped that the UK health regulator NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) will eventually license the tinnitus ACR treatment for use in the UK.

The research is being presented to the British Medical Association conference in London and is published in the journal Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience.


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