Vagal Nerve Therapy Trial Recruiting Patients
The new study uses a technique known as vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) that takes advantage of the brain’s ability to reconfigure itself (neuroplasticity). During the therapy, patients wear headphones and hear a series of single frequency tones, paired with stimulation to the vagus nerve, a large nerve that runs from the head and neck to the abdomen. When stimulated, the vagus nerve releases acetylcholine, norepinephrine, and other chemicals that encourage neuroplasticity.
In an earlier NIDCD-funded study using a rat model, the technique was shown to reorganize neurons to respond to their original frequencies, subdue their activity, and reduce their synchronous firing, suggesting that the ringing sensation had stopped. The scientists subsequently tested a prototype device in a small group of human volunteers in Europe and observed encouraging results.
For this new study, two groups of adults who have had moderate-to-severe tinnitus for at least one year will participate in daily 2.5 hour sessions of VNS and audio tone therapy over six weeks. One group will get the VNS and tone test treatment immediately; the other will get a combination of VNS and tones that is not expected to have a therapeutic benefit. After six weeks, both groups will receive active test treatment.