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Coloured light could provide home treatment for tinnitus

Research into treating tinnitus with coloured light could lead to a personal medical device under a Design Council-supported scheme.

Scientists from Leicester University and UK company Orthoscopics will work with designers from the public body to explore ways in which research on the treatment could be commercialised for use in the home.

The researchers have conducted a study that found around 40 to 45 per cent of patients reported that their tinnitus was reduced by around 50 per cent when looking at an area of coloured light illuminated by Orthoscopics’ LED ‘Read Eye’ lamp.

Although the exact mechanism for how this happens is unknown, Leicester’s project leader Dr Mike Mulheran said that it may be due to the unusual light the lamp produces, which mixes red, green and blue colours with very specific or ‘tight’ frequencies.

‘We think it may be selective attention by the brain to this that results in less perceptual processing being given to tinnitus — which is another unusual and “unnatural” signal,’ he told The Engineer.

More research is needed to establish details, such as how long the effects last, but the team ultimately aims to adapt the treatment for home use and in varying environmental conditions.

‘This may be a modified Read Eye lamp, with memory and simple programming functions,’ said Mulheran.

‘The actual design of the lamp may take a number of configurations depending on the specific user environment.’

The treatment, which the Orthoscopics researchers came across while using the Read Eye lamp to prescribe tinted lenses for migraine sufferers, appears to involve the interaction of sensory signals in the brain.

This cross-sensory integration means that information from one sense can alter the brain’s perception of stimuli from other senses, although scientists have yet to define the exact circuitry involved.

Tinnitus — which affects up to 10 per cent of the UK population — is the perception of sound in the ear without the existence of an external sound, which makes it very difficult to objectively test and treat.

Existing treatments range from acoustic masking with other sounds and talking therapy, to drugs, implants, electro-stimulation and radiosurgery.

The Design Council is providing design support for the project, which is one of four from Leicester University to receive help from the organisation under the 2011 Innovate for Universities mentoring service. Another six universities are also taking part in the scheme.


Readers' comments (52)

  • Bring it on!

    As a long term sufferer, I have found no cure for the ringing.

    Best regards



    Phil

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  • After suffering for years with this annoying, distracting and disabling curse I will watch development with interest.
    I still wonder why many of my fellow colleagues who worked in the same noisy environment never suffered the same fate.

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  • Do they want people to get involved in the trials, I would happily test this to get rid or reduce the incessant problem.

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  • My tinnitus came to stay October 1979 and it's been with me 24/7 ever since. I was told to treat it as "my friend". IMPOSSIBLE!!!!
    I hate it today as much as I did all those years ago. I would be so happy to eliminate it from my life. I will willingly become involved in any trials.

    Regards
    Roger

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  • Its always there, waiting for my thoughts to drag me to that wretched high pitched ringing!! It interferes with all aspects of my life, even hearing aids cant' beat it, it gets through, the more you are aware of it the louder and more distracting it becomes. I too would welcome anything that removes it from my head...

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  • I would be very interested in trails for this. I have a constant ringing.

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  • Yes, I woud be interested in taking part in a trial if available. I did read an artical in this publication about the use of another noise to give temporary relief and thought it sounded crazy, but shortly after worked in a noisy environment for a few hours and came out with silence in my head which lasted for several hours, it was nice.

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  • I have recently been diagnosed with the problem, although I have had it for many years. Again if there are volunteers required for trials I would be more than happy to participate

    Regards
    Roman

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  • I'm a sufferer, I'd be happy to take part in any trials

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  • And so would I. I have had this for 40 years at least !

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  • Where can I get one! I would be happy to take part in these trials, anything that might get rid of this noise that I have endured for over 25 years now.

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  • Me too! I'll try anything that mutes that accursed ~9kHz screeching. This treatment looks interesting - and it doesn't involve drugs or sharp needles!

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  • I have suffered with tinnitus for 5 years and sometimes still find it extremely hard to live with.
    I would welcome anything to help with the constant ringing.

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  • As a Tinnitus sufferer I would like to use this forum to mention to other sufferers that ginkgo biloba has a marked effect (at least for me) in reducing the volume of the Tinnitus. Also moving my jaw back and forth has an effect - if I thrust my jaw forward the volume increases but if I hold it there for a minute then upon relaxing the volume is reduced for a while.
    Incidentally, the frequency of my tone appears to be around 8 kHz as judged against a signal generator.

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  • I have always had the high pitch hiss 24/7 for most of my 52 years and have grown accustom to it (still do no like it). I sometimes will get a secondary tone in the 600-1800Hz range. That drives me nuts. A few years, for a while thankfully, A few years ago, I had a period of 2-3 months with the tone like a pickup truck engine going in my head that so convinced me the first few days it occurred that I went looking outside and walked around the house (in the country) looking for a neighbors truck or a propeller plane flying overhead. Happily, that one is gone.
    I hope that this device can change some of this.

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  • It's not often made public, but studies have found that tinnitus is associated with taking high doses of Aspirin. My GP confirmed this when I asked him, but of course nobody told me that before it was too late. (I mention this in the hope that it may help somebody somewhere to avoid the problem).

    Like the others here, I'm up for any trials.

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  • My symptoms started after i came out of a 2 month coma in 2003 and is getting worse, i've tried EVERYTHING and would be more than willing to take part in ANY trials anywhere, this suffering MUST stop.

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  • Perhaps this could also treat visual snow? Visual snow suffers commonly suffering from tinnitus as well.

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  • This is the worst thing to happen to anybody including me I had shingles in my right ear 21 years ago which left me with very little earring but lots of winding noises none stop and over the last 2 years I have been having trouble with left ear hope there is a cure as it is effecting all our life’s I will take any tests or trials
    Kind regards Michael kavanagh

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  • I too suffer with tinnitus and would welcome any breakthrough to help with any form of reduction.
    Ian

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  • I would be thrilled to particiapte in any study groups that take place in the US. I've had terrible condition for the past 30 years and have found NOTHING to improve or change it's condition.

    Best of luck to everyone involved in this effort, there are millions of us cheering you on and wishing you all the success in the world.

    Bruce

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  • This sounds very promising for people suffering from tinnitus. Thus far the only person I know of with a reliable track record for helping with tinnitus is Dr. Kevin Hogan. He has good free info at: http://www.kevinhogan.com/FAQ.htm

    Michael

    P.S. That's not an affiliate link. Being a sound engineer, I'm acutely sensitive to hearing issues of any kind and wish everyone could be helped with tinnitus. It's a horrible problem to deal with.

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  • Cross sensory wiring is interesting stuff indeed. I read and article and saw a movie about a blind person that managed to "see" using sound. He was riding a bicycle through a suburb with no apparent visual impairment. There is definately a link between sound and vision so I hope they find the link and sufferers of Tinnitus like myself can have a decent ringing free life. I think from personal experience that Tinnitus is also linked with a form of Migrain headache that I regularly get. I too will gladly participate in trials with light!

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  • Very interesting. Can we have some more details of the Led light source & can this be mimicked on a LED monitor attached to a PC?

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  • I suffer with this complaint and would be happy to take part in any trials if you could pass this message on to the doctor concerned I would be grateful.

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  • I have played in bands & been a fan of Rock music for over 30 years, so have obviously put my tinnitus down to this. Curiously when i was younger my ears would only ring after a gig. The ringing is now permanent but after exposure to a noisy gig my ears are quiet for up to 15hrs after the gig, of which then the ringing returns. And yes i do find it strange that certain people can be in the same environment and not suffer.

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  • Ebb expressed my thoughts in precise terms; ie, "it is always there, just waiting for my thoughts to drag me to that wretched" time when the high pitched ringing takes over my phyche.

    Ebb Kretscmer | 2 Nov 2011 2:24 pm

    Its always there, waiting for my thoughts to drag me to that wretched high pitched ringing!! It interferes with all aspects of my life, even hearing aids cant' beat it, it gets through, the more you are aware of it the louder and more distracting it becomes. I too would welcome anything that removes it from my head...

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  • I think there should be a legal moves to standardise the audio systems in clubs/venues to a good level before they are allowed to play music. Fabric and Ministry of Sound are two examples of high quality sound, Martin Audio and Function 1 systems are often quoted as the best systems to use for clarity.

    Also think that more awareness should be made for wearing ear plugs... I'm deaf so when I go out I just turn my hearing aids off and the plugs act as natural filters... Still comes through nice and loud but I know I'm protecting my ears... Shame they can't do anything for rubbish music however...

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  • I have suffered from this condition for 15 years and would love to get rid of this annoyance. I would gladly take part in any trials.

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  • Count me in to any trials! Have suffered ringing and now some clicking for over 30 years and it is getting progressively worse. Very occasionally the tone stops momentarily then drops several octaves and slowly ramps back to the usual high pitch.

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  • I have suffered from this irritating mosquito in my ear for last 10years . Heavy industry victim before mandatory PPE protection was the norm . would volunteer anytime

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  • I would be very interested in trails for this. I have a constant ringing and I had it for a long time. It will be nice to have some silence for a change.

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  • Can you imagine such a trial filled with a mass of engineers:)

    My affliction reaches epic proportions when I am tired. Had it for years and seems to be getting worse. Would be first in line for the trial if I could.

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  • Although there may be a "physiological" cause to tinnitus, have you ever wondered how it is that tilting your head has little effect on the image perceived by the eyes? Most will realise that what is projected on the retina will have changed radically, and that the eyeball has not had a chance to re-scan the scene in the time available. Yet somehow we manage. This is because we learn to see (and hear) in very early development and part of this is the way our internal subsystems proactively fill in data opportunistically ie in the hope that it may be useful, whilst scanning etc catches up and checks. It is harder to illustrate this idea for hearing, of course, but it may well be that tinnitus is a consequence of the brain filling in opportunistically some of the silences - perhaps even due to reduced hearing in the first place. The interesting question then is whether the tinnitus response cannot be unlearned in some way. There have been cases of tinnitus "cured" or possibly otherwise overcome by hypnotherapy and I would not be surprised if there were something similar going on in the example quoted. I am a tinnitus sufferer and currently doing a hypnotherapy course and will try this on myself in due course... Btw my background is in physics & electronics/IT, not holistic medicine! :)

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  • I have suffered with Tinnitus for the past 50 years due to nerve damage in my ears. I must admit I am used to it and most of the time I don't notice it, it's only when I'm tired that it becomes more of a problem. If this light works, it would be nice to not have the ringing in my ears, it might even improve my poor hearing. It would be nice to be included in the trials.

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  • I've had this longer than i care to think, put me on that growing list, for any treatment that will or could help.

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  • I am a sufferer, I would like to take part and get rid of this annoying noise. Remove it from my head and be free of it.

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  • It can't come soon enough,the constant Buzz in the ear is like everyone says annoying to say the least.

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  • I have recently been diagnosed with this, no sleep and the deafness it brings are really hard to live with.
    I would take part in any trials to help get my life back.

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  • I've had it in both ears since suffering a brain haemorhage 9 years ago. I estimate it at around 80 - 85db in my left ear and slightly less in the right and it crucifies me. I've been told that there's no known cure and that I have to habituate to it, whatever that means. I feel for the poor chap who killed himself but can well understand why he did so. As for seeking help from the NHS - it's just not worth bothering!

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  • As a submariner, I stood between 2 enormous engines for years. I have had constant tinnitus, It NEVER stops. I have had this constant noise in my head since the early 70's. The worst thing is sleeping and the fact that nobody understands, Don't think of it and you won't hear it, Recognise this.
    I also have vertigo and often lose ballance when walking. Though the experts tell me this is a different problem not caysed by the noise at work.

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  • I suffer from this affliction and like everyone I would gladly volunteer for trials especially because I am also colour blind.

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  • I've had it for about 20 years now and I'm 33.

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  • Hmmmm....I have ringing in my right ear and my left cant hear anything..:-( count me in in all the trials...:)

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  • I've had it only when I had extreme stress. Looking at a red light at home could probably reduce the stress, if the work wouldn't pile up on the desk during that time.

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  • me too, i will take part in any test to help.

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  • Me too. I've had a ~9kHz rough tone, a bit like a jet engine for thirty years. I wonder if the internal illumination through the ears, now available as a treatment for SAD, is worth trying out for tinnitus, too.

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  • How many more new developments are we going to read about, to then never hear of them again! every year it's the same.."We're a step closer" They maybe a step closer, unfortunately the steps they are taking are millimeters, and there is probably over 10,000 miles to go...So unfortunately no cure in our our life time folks!

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  • Just email me and i will be there,,, live quite close to leicester uni..

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  • I would go anywhere for trials. My Tinnitus is so loud and unbearable at times. 3 years of Hell !

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