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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)

  • 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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