AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Wait, you don’t hear that ringing, too?

Defined as “the perception of sound in one or both ears or in the head when no external sound is present” by the American Tinnitus Foundation, tinnitus affects 50 million people in the US and forty percent of veterans.  It can be caused by everything physical trauma or long-term exposure to loud noises (i.e. combat veterans or teenagers with iPods) to hormonal imbalance or aspirin use. Currently, there are many treatments available, although the success rate of these treatments varies. The main reason for this is that the best way of treating tinnitus would involve delivering medication to the inner ear, the site of the problem. Currently, doctors have no way of putting medication in the inner ear, but this could change  in a few years thanks to the the beginning of a new project by the US Department of Defense, who has commissioned Draper Laboratory to work out a

concept for a small delivery device inserted near the membrane-covered window—no more than three millimeters in diameter—separating the middle ear from inner ear. Once at the membrane the device … would release a drug into the cochlea… The plan is to embed wireless communications into the capsule so that a patient or doctor can control the dosage. After the capsule finishes delivering its supply of drugs, it would dissolve. 


Courtesy of:
These may be setting up my generation for a tinnitus epidemic many years from now.


The project is only in its beginning stages, so it will be years before patients can actually reap any benefits from this technology. However, I take comfort in knowing that should I develop tinnitus, I could possibly have access to better treatment than is available today. This is especially relevant to my generation; everywhere you look, there are teenagers blasting their iPods, unknowingly (or not caring) causing permanent damage. Despite the warnings received from adult, many teens will not listen, and will continue to cause damage with loud noise. Should this treatment be developed, the tinnitus that will be inevitable developed by a large portion of my generation will treated, and possibly cured.

This project also holds a personal significance for me.  As someone who wants to eventually enter the armed forces, I am relieved to know that such a common issue among veterans is coming a step closer to being eradicated. Despite the technology used today to prevent noise damage,  I know of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans who are experiencing tinnitus, and even hearing loss. I’m glad that research is being conducted on a condition that, while it may not sound terribly crippling, can actually have a huge effect on one’s quality of life.

So, readers, do any of you have or know someone with tinnitus  If so, how did you or the person you know develop it? And, if you have it, would you consider one day utilizing this kind of treatment?

Post, discuss, talk with your friends. Discussion breeds awareness, which is key to arriving at a cure.

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  1. troybolton

    Nice post Explodingllama. I don’t know if i personally experience tinnitus, but i definitely do hear a slight ringing sound when no sound seems to be present. Who knows maybe i have super human hearing! It is good to know that they are making strides to help cure this problem for our veterans. The implication of a small device in the inner ear reminds me of nanotechnology. For those of you who don’t know nanotechnology is the use of extremely small robots for a multitude of uses. However, there are experiments currently going on to utilize these nano robots in delivering medicine and other bio-medical uses. I personally can’t wait to see what strides we will make in about 10 years time.

  2. inewitt

    This is a very good development, since it’s becoming apparent that hearing loss is going to become a much bigger problem for our generation than the last. Particularly because of the increase in headphone use, hearing loss will be a major problem and having a method for which to deliver treatment will be very important.

  3. henroids

    Great post Explodingllama! The idea of having a small delivery device that can fit in my ear is cool and freaky at the same time. I don’t know if I would trust myself to control something like that in my own ear. According to

    tinnitus can also be caused in the short term from attending concerts or a loud sound. I think it would be interesting to see if this method would help people with short term tinnitus, and if they could make the method that easy to use that it could be carried to concerts to solve the problem of the annoying ringing noise afterward, even though it only lasts for a little while.

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