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Vagal Nerve Stimulation Paired With Tones Viable for Tinnitus

Beneficial effect seen for non-medication-taking patients with severe chronic tinnitus

Vagal Nerve Stimulation Paired With Tones Viable for Tinnitus

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 27, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- For patients with severe chronic tinnitus, vagal nerve stimulation paired with tones seems feasible, according to a case series published online Nov. 20 in Neuromodulation: Technology at the Neural Interface.

Noting that in an animal study, the tinnitus percept and pathological neural plasticity were reversed with stimulation of the vagus nerve paired with tones, Dirk De Ridder, M.D., Ph.D., from University Hospital Antwerp in Belgium, and colleagues assessed this method in humans. Electrodes were implanted on the left vagus nerve in 10 patients with severe chronic tinnitus. The patients heard tones, excluding the tinnitus-matched frequency, for two and a half hours each day for 20 days, paired with brief electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve.

The researchers found that the therapy was well tolerated and there were no complication- or side-effect-related study withdrawals. Clinically meaningful improvements in tinnitus were observed for four of the 10 patients, in both the affective component and the sound percept, and the improvements were maintained for more than two months post-therapy. Five of the patients were on medication that included muscarinic antagonists, norepinephrine agonists, and γ-amino butyric acid agonists. In contrast to medication-free patients, these patients had no improvement.

"Vagal nerve stimulation paired with tones excluding the tinnitus-matched frequency is safe and feasible," the authors write. "It seems to exert a beneficial effect in non-medication-taking patients, both with regard to the perceived sound and the distress."

Two authors disclosed financial ties to MicroTransponder.

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