Scientists have found a way to ease chronic ringing in the ears, known as tinnitus, by stimulating a neck nerve and playing sounds to reboot the brain, according to research published Wednesday.
There is currently no cure for tinnitus, which can range from annoying to debilitating and affects as many as 23 million adults in the United States, including one in 10 seniors and 40 percent of military veterans.
For Gloria Chepko, 66, who has suffered from tinnitus since she was four years old, the sound she describes as “like crickets… but also bell-like,” gets worse when she is tired.
“It’s awful,” she said. “Sometimes it is very loud, and it will get loud if I am under stress or if I have been going for a very long time and I am fatigued,” she said.
“If my mind is tired and I sit down I will only hear this sound.”
For some people, such as military veterans who are left with hearing damage after exposure to loud blasts and gunfire, the noise — which could also sound like roaring, whooshing or clicking — interferes with their ability to lead a normal life.
The US Veterans Administration spends one billion dollars per year on disability payments related to tinnitus, the most common service-related ailment in soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, industry experts say.
Scientists believe the disorder is caused by hearing loss or nerve damage, to which the brain tries but fails to adjust.
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