Neuromonics Inc, Bethlehem, Pa, has been designated to receive $1 million in funding through the Department of Defense (DOD) to study the treatment of tinnitus among military servicemembers. The clinically proven Neuromonics Tinnitus Treatment offers long-term relief by comprehensively targeting the neurological root causes of tinnitus, the company says.
Tinnitus is one of the top medical complaints from soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, primarily due to excessive noise exposure during combat. The American Tinnitus Association (ATA) reports that tinnitus and hearing loss top the list of war-related health costs, and 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, which is projected to cost American taxpayers more than $1.1 billion, according to the ATA.
"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 Rep Charlie Dent (PA-15), who was instrumental in securing funds for the 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 study will evaluate the company’s tinnitus treatment and counseling for active-duty military servicemembers. Trial sites are expected to include large, troop-based military installations. Further study is expected to include technological changes to the tinnitus treatment device, and evaluating treatment for specific subgroups of servicemembers, such as those with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury.
The Treatment is used in 30 Veterans Affairs and six DOD medical centers nationwide. It is a compact, noninvasive 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 6-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 versus alternatives.
"We are committed to expanding upon the positive outcomes seen in previous civilian studies and demonstrating long-term benefit for the military population," says Richard Giancola, CEO of Neuromonics.
The military is at high risk for tinnitus, based on excessive noise-level hazards during combat, training simulations, or on Air Force carriers. Many military servicemembers are exposed to sound levels of more than 140 decibels, and a single exposure can cause tinnitus immediately. The Independent Budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ 2008 Fiscal Budget has identified the following weapons as surpassing the decibel level: machine guns, F18C handguns, pistols, rifles, hand grenades 50 feet from a target, and towed howitzers. A 2005 Institute of Medicine report says that hearing-conservation programs in the military are 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.
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. The stimulus incorporates spectrally modified, customized music, which engages the brain’s emotional response center, the limbic system, and reduces tinnitus-related disturbance.
Research published in the April 2007 issue of Ear & Hearing demonstrates the Treatment yields clinically significant reduction in tinnitus disturbance in more than 90% of suitable patients in a formal clinical trial setting. The Treatment is the most comprehensive, long-term therapy that targets the neurological processes of tinnitus, specifically its audiological, attention-based and emotional aspects, the company says.
Clinically administered and monitored, the Treatment is proven to yield significant long-term reduction of tinnitus disturbance. The therapy is delivered via a compact, lightweight and uniquely designed medical device. with Daily use is typically recommended for 2 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 performing computer work.
Neuromonics is the manufacturer and distributor of the device. With research and development beginning in the early 1990s, the Treatment has been used to treat thousands of tinnitus sufferers worldwide.