Daily Mail

Coloured lights to stop that ring­ing in your ear

- By ROGER DOBSON

ALAMP that gives out coloured light is be­ing tested as a new treat­ment for tin­ni­tus, a con­di­tion char­ac­terised by a ring­ing, buzzing or con­stant roar in the ears.

Re­searchers at the Univer­sity of Le­ices­ter are test­ing this ap­proach fol­low­ing a serendip­i­tous dis­cov­ery from ear­lier re­search with mi­graine pa­tients who also hap­pened to have tin­ni­tus. Us­ing coloured lenses to treat their mi­graines also re­duced their tin­ni­tus.

Fur­ther work found the coloured light re­duced tin­ni­tus symp­toms in 40 per cent of the pa­tients. Now the re­searchers are test­ing the treat­ment on a larger group.

An es­ti­mated six mil­lion peo­ple in the UK have tin­ni­tus, with around 10 per cent of them se­ri­ously af­fected.

This can have a detri­men­tal ef­fect on their qual­ity of life and has been linked to de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety and sleep­ing prob­lems.

While the ex­act cause is not known, tin­ni­tus is thought to stem from changes in the amount of sound mov­ing from the ear to the brain — for in­stance, as a re­sult of age-re­lated hear­ing loss or in­jury.

It’s thought the tin­ni­tus sounds are the re­sult of the brain try­ing to get more hear­ing in­for­ma­tion from the ear.

There are a range of treat­ments, in­clud­ing sound ‘gen­er­a­tors’, or pil­lows with built-in speak­ers, which use noise to dis­tract the brain from send­ing sig­nals that lead to tin­ni­tus. These treat­ments have vari­able suc­cess.

The new ap­proach is based on the the­ory that the light rays dis­tract the sen­sory area of the brain, which then stops pro­duc­ing the sig­nals that cause the tin­ni­tus sounds in the ear.

The light is also thought to dis­tract the brain from the noises.

The pre­vi­ous re­search in­volved get­ting pa­tients who had mi­graines to look through coloured lenses to re­duce symp­toms.

In a sub­se­quent pi­lot study con­ducted by re­searchers at Le­ices­ter with pa­tients who had only tin­ni­tus, 40 per cent re­ported that their symp­toms halved when they looked at coloured light from a spe­cial lamp.

In­stead of one bulb, the lamp has lots of tiny ones that emit red, blue or green light.

It has three di­als to al­ter the in­ten­sity of each colour, and the mix of tinted light projects down onto an A4- sized plate, which pa­tients look at. In the new trial at Univer­sity Hospi­tals of Le­ices­ter NHS Trust, 32 pa­tients will test the lamp. They will be asked to turn the colour di­als to cre­ate dif­fer­ent tints for ten min­utes at a time to see which, if any, re­duces the ring­ing in their ears.

The spe­cific colour com­bi­na­tion they say helps the most will be recorded on a com­puter con­nected to the lamp.

The pa­tients will then be in­vited to re­turn four times over six weeks where they will look at their se­lected colour of light or a placebo low level of light for 20 min­utes each. Their symp­toms will be com­pared be­fore and af­ter each ses­sion.

COM­MENT­ING on the new ther­apy, Pro­fes­sor Jay­dip Ray, a ear, nose and throat con­sul­tant at Sh­effield Teach­ing Hospi­tals, says: ‘ This trial is based on the fact tin­ni­tus can be mod­u­lated by sen­sory sub­sti­tu­tion such as dis­tract­ing light, sound or tongue movements.

‘If ef­fec­tive, it can be one of the self-help strate­gies that may help tin­ni­tus suf­fer­ers.’

MEAN­WHILE, re­searchers in Brazil be­lieve acupunc­ture could help re­duce tin­ni­tus symp­toms.

A new study by the State Univer­sity of Lon­d­rina in Brazil gave 50 tin­ni­tus pa­tients acupunc­ture (in­sert­ing fine nee­dles) in the head twice a week for ten weeks or no treat­ment. There was around 50 per cent re­duc­tion in the in­ten­sity of symp­toms af­ter acupunc­ture.

The sug­ges­tion is that the acupunc­ture nee­dles prompt an elec­tri­cal sig­nal in the brain that blocks the tin­ni­tus sig­nals.

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