Neuromonics awarded $1m to study tinnitus treatment for soldiers

7 January 2009

Neuromonics, Inc. has been awarded $1 million from the US Department of Defense to study the treatment of tinnitus among military service members.

The Neuromonics Tinnitus Treatment is a clinically proven treatment, offering long-term relief by comprehensively targeting the neurological root causes of tinnitus.

Tinnitus, most commonly characterized by ringing in the ears, is one of the top medical complaints for soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, primarily due to excessive noise exposure during combat. In fact, the American Tinnitus Association reports that tinnitus and hearing loss top the list of war-related health costs.

Furthermore, the problem is worsening. At the current rate, veterans with tinnitus-related disabilities will more than double from 390,933 in 2006 to 818,811 in 2011, at a cost to American taxpayers of more than $1.1 billion (American Tinnitus Association).

“From my visits to Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as speaking to the many troops from my district, I am concerned about combat-related health effects on servicemembers,” said Congressman Charlie Dent (PA-15), who was instrumental in securing funding for the tinnitus study. “Soldiers are in dire, urgent need of an effective tinnitus treatment to help them maintain mission readiness, and to return to normal life following service. This study is critically important to ensuring that military tinnitus sufferers receive the treatment they need.”

The tinnitus study will evaluate the Neuromonics Tinnitus Treatment and counseling for active-duty military service members. Trial sites are expected to include large troop-based military installations. Further study is expected to include technological changes to the tinnitus treatment device, as well as evaluating treatment for specific sub-groups of service members, such as those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI).

The Neuromonics Tinnitus Treatment is currently in use in 30 Veterans Affairs and six Department of Defense medical centers throughout the US. It is a compact, non-invasive medical device that delivers a prescribed acoustic neural stimulus, customized for each patient’s individual audiological profile, and incorporates specially processed, relaxing music.

After clinical customization, the patient listens to the device daily for six-plus months. The stimulus is designed to provide relief and relaxation in the initial phase of treatment, and then progressively over a period of several months, to facilitate desensitization to the tinnitus. In this way, the therapy can help the brain filter out the tinnitus perception, so that it no longer intrudes on the patient’s conscious attention, and no longer has a disturbing impact on quality of life. By targeting the condition’s underlying neurological basis, Neuromonics may offer enhanced effectiveness for patients compared to alternatives.

“We are honored that Congress has selected the Neuromonics Tinnitus Treatment in this vital effort to effectively address the crippling effects of tinnitus associated with military service,” said Richard Giancola, CEO of Neuromonics. “We are committed to expanding upon the positive outcomes seen in previous civilian studies and demonstrating long-term benefit for the military population.”

Tinnitus among military service members

The military is at high risk for tinnitus, based on excessive noise-level hazards during combat, training simulations or on airforce carriers. Many military service members are exposed to sound levels over 140 decibels, and a single exposure can cause tinnitus immediately.

In fact, the Independent Budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ 2008 Fiscal Budget identified the following weapons that surpass this decibel level: machine guns, F18C handguns, pistols, rifles, hand grenades fifty feet from a target and towed howitzers.

Furthermore, a 2005 Institute of Medicine report said that hearing-conservation programs in the military are currently not adequate to protect service members.

Beyond the suffering caused by tinnitus, the Independent Budget of Veteran’s Affairs has found that many soldiers’ performance is impaired during service, due to developing tinnitus and other hearing impairments prior to active combat. For example, those with auditory impairments are 36% more likely to hear the wrong command in the battlefield.

About the Neuromonics tinnitus treatment

Neuromonics’ non-invasive, FDA-cleared device is customized to the patient’s unique hearing and tinnitus profile. It delivers a customized neural stimulus that targets the brain’s auditory pathways and is believed to aid in neuroplasticity, or the process of neuronal change.

This process appears to be involved in allowing the brain to filter out the disturbing tinnitus perception. This stimulus incorporates spectrally modified, customized music, which engages the brain’s emotional response center, the limbic system, and thereby reduces tinnitus-related disturbance.

Research published in the April 2007 issue of Ear & Hearing demonstrates the Neuromonics Tinnitus Treatment yields clinically significant reduction in tinnitus disturbance in more than 90% of suitable patients in a formal clinical trial setting.

The therapy is delivered via a compact, lightweight medical device. Treatment typically occurs over an approximately six-month period, with daily use recommended for two or more hours per day, especially when the tinnitus is most disturbing. The treatment can take place during regular activities such as reading, relaxing or computer work.

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