As a dance music fan, your ears are constantly subjected to loud music. This might take place at a club, a music festival, or simply in your room with the volume cranked all the way up. Unfortunately, your ears are very sensitive, and constant loud noise can lead to you becoming a victim of tinnitus. If you're like me, you're far too familiar with tinnitus. According to WebMD, "Tinnitus (pronounced ti-ni-tis), or ringing in the ears, is the sensation of hearing ringing, buzzing, hissing, chirping, whistling, or other sounds." An estimated 30 million adults in the United States and 10% of the world's population are affected by this maddening condition. Luckily, a cure for tinnitus might be on the way.
NewScientist has reported that MicroTransponder has developed the Serenity System, which aims to retrain the brain with vagus nerve stimulation. With the Serenity System, the vagus nerve, which is in the neck, is connected to a transmitter. The nerve connects the brain to many of your body's organs.
Michael Kilgard, a consultant for MicroTransponder, says, ""Vagus nerve stimulation takes advantage of the brain's neuroplasticity – the ability to reconfigure itself."
To use the Serenity System, a person puts on a set of headphones and listens to computer-generated sounds. First, the headphones play tones that trigger the tinnitus. After that, the headphones play a sound that is similar to the sound generated by the tinnitus. During this process, the vagus nerve is stimulated with small pulses, which helps retrain the brain through the release of chemicals. The Serenity System has worked on a clinical trial on rats, and it helped out about half of the participants of a small human trial.
Four clinical trials are underway at United States universities. Kilgard has hopes that the Serenity System will be available to consumers by mid-2015. In the meantime, let's all make sure to wear earplugs to shows.
Cover photo credit: Androsent Sleep