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Low Pitch Therapy for ‘ringing in the Ears

UC Irvine researchers have found a treatment for tinnitus, the hearing damage loud music can cause.//

Fan-Gang Zeng and colleagues have identified an effective way to treat the symptoms of tinnitus, a form of hearing damage typically marked by high-pitched ringing that torments more than 60 million Americans. The researchers found that a low-pitched sound applied by a simple MP3 player suppressed and provided temporary relief from the high-pitch ringing tone associated with the disorder.

Tinnitus is caused by injury, infection or the repeated bombast of loud sound, and can appear in one or both ears. It’s no coincidence that many rock musicians, and their fans, suffer from it. Although known for its high-pitched ringing, tinnitus is an internal noise that varies in its pitch and frequency. Some treatments exist, but none are consistently effective.

Zeng presented his study Feb. 13 at the Middle Winter Research Conference for Otolaryngology in Denver.

“Tinnitus is one of the most common hearing disorders in the world, but very little is understood about why it occurs or how to treat it,” said Zeng, a professor of otolaryngology, biomedical engineering, cognitive sciences, and anatomy and neurobiology. “We are very pleased and surprised by the success of this therapy, and hopefully with further testing it will provide needed relief to the millions who suffer from tinnitus.”

As director of the speech and hearing lab at UCI, Zeng and his team made their discovery while addressing the severe tinnitus of a research subject. The patient uses a cochlear implant to address a constant mid-ranged pitched sound in his injured right ear accented by the periodic piercing of a high-pitched ringing sound ranging between 4,000 and 8,000 hertz in frequency.

At first, Zeng thought of treating the tinnitus with a high-pitched sound, a method called masking that is sometimes used in tinnitus therapy attempts. But he ruled ou
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