LOS ANGELES—David Giles, 57, began suffering from tinnitus as a teenager, when a firecracker went off near his ear. Giles says the debilitating condition, commonly known as “ringing in the ears,” has grown overpowering without going away.
He is one of as many as 50 million Americans suffering from tinnitus. Musicians, factory workers, military veterans and many others endure its effects, including problems with concentration, sleep, anxiety and depression.
Giles, who lives in Columbus, Ohio, traveled four hours to a doctor in East Lansing Michigan to try the Levo System, an FDA-approved technology that mimics the specific sounds of a patient’s individual tinnitus. The patient listens to the sounds through earbuds while sleeping. Because the brain is most responsive to sensory input during sleep, it grows accustomed to the sounds after a few months of treatment. It is a radically different approach that retrains the brain to ignore “ringing in the ears.”
New research underscores the promise of this approach.
A recently released randomized study by the National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research at the VA Portland Health Care System demonstrated improved clinical outcomes for tinnitus patients using the Levo System. The study was led by James Henry, PhD.
Study participants were assigned to the brain retraining technique using the Levo System or a commonly-used white noise masking machine. Patients using the Levo System reported the greatest improvement in tinnitus symptoms and the biggest decline in cognitive-related problems. These participants also reported the most significant improvement in their enjoyment of social activities and relationships with family and friends, key quality of life indicators.
For Giles, the Levo System was a life-changer. After a 90-day treatment, he reports that his tinnitus is no longer overpowering or debilitating, and has faded to the background, allowing him to enjoy his life as he once did.
Tinnitus affects a range of people, including those who are exposed to continuous noise. It is the leading service-related disability among U.S. veterans, according to the American Tinnitus Association.
The Levo System approach is grounded in the idea of personalized medicine. Rather than machines or doctors selecting sound matches in the customary fashion, patients choose the actual sounds they hear when they sleep. When patients take an active role addressing their tinnitus, they often feel a sense of mastery and control.
“It is gratifying to see so many people experience relief from a condition that has defied a long-term solution,” said Michael Baker, president and Oregon-based CEO of Otoharmonics Corp., which produces the Levo System. “Patients report the greatest improvement when they drive decisions about their treatment.”
The Levo System has been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration for marketing in the U.S. Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles is Otoharmonics’ majority stakeholder.