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Low Pitch Therapy for ‘ringing in the Ears

t that option because of the severity of the patient’s tinnitus, so an opposite approach was explored, which provided unexpectedly effective results.

After making many adjustments, the researchers created a low-pitched, pulsing sound -- described as a “calming, pleasant tone” of 40 to 100 hertz of frequency -- which, when applied to the patient through a regular MP3 player, suppressed the high-pitched ringing after about 90 seconds and provided what the patient described as a high-level of continued relief.

Zeng’s patient programs the low-pitched sound through his cochlear implant, and Zeng is currently studying how to apply this treatment for people who do not use any hearing-aid devices. Since a cochlear implant replaces the damaged mechanism in the ear that stimulates the auditory nerve, Zeng believes that a properly pitched acoustic sound will have the same effect on tinnitus for someone who does not use a hearing device.

Dr. Hamid Djalilian, a UCI physician who treats hearing disorders, points out that a custom sound can be created for the patients, who then can download it into their personal MP3 player and use it when they need relief.

“The treatment, though, does not represent a cure,” Zeng said. “This low-pitch therapeutic approach is only effective while being applied to the ear, after which the ringing can return. But it underscores the need to customize stimulation for tinnitus suppression and suggests that balanced stimulation, rather than masking, is the brain mechanism underlying this surprising finding.”

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