Transtympanic electrical stimulation for immediate and long-term tinnitus suppression.Int Tinnitus J. 2009; 15(1):100-6.IT
Tinnitus is a common symptom which often becomes disabling, affecting the emotional and psychosocial dimensions of life. There are many reports describing tinnitus suppression or attenuation through electrical stimulation of the ear, provided either by cochlear implants or by transtympanic stimulation. Our study project aims to assess the effects of electrical promontory stimulation (EPS) on persistent disabling tinnitus. We enrolled 11 patients affected by postlingual monoaural or binaural profound hearing loss and disabling tinnitus in the worse ear. EPS was performed with direct continuous positive current delivered by an active platinum-iridium needle electrode connected to a promontory stimulator device. The short-term effect on tinnitus was assessed during and immediately after the stimulation. Long-term effects were estimated after one month by comparing pre- and post-EPS Tinnitus Handicap Inventory (THI) scores. Immediately after EPS, five patients (45.4%) reported complete suppression and four (36.4%) reported attenuation of tinnitus. Two patients (18.2%) said it was unchanged. After one month, the THI score was reduced in five patients (45.4%) and remained unchanged in the other six patients (54.6%). The beneficial effects of EPS on tinnitus might be explained by interference with tinnitus generating circuits such as the dorsal cochlear nucleus and the inferior colliculus and by modification of cortical activity. EPS is to be considered a worthwhile attempt at tinnitus suppression, and could help select candidates for the positioning of an implantable electrical stimulator that might provide longer-term beneficial effect on tinnitus.