A promising new treatment for some types of tinnitus is called neuromodulation. It involves retraining your brain to ignore the sound of tinnitus through the delivery of sounds, electricity, or other stimuli.

Tinnitus is a medical condition estimated to affect more than 10 to 15% of people. It involves hearing a ringing, buzzing, clicking, or similar type of sound that does not have an external source.

One promising field of research is neuromodulation. In fact, the first noninvasive device for the treatment of tinnitus was cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in March 2023.

Read on to learn more about the effectiveness of this treatment for tinnitus and how neuromodulation works.

Neuromodulation is a new potential treatment for tinnitus that involves changing the neurological pathways in the brain. Neuromodulation can involve:

  • listening to sounds
  • magnetic brain stimulation
  • electric brain or nerve stimulation
  • a combination of stimuli

Researchers are continuing to investigate the effectiveness of neuromodulation in treating tinnitus. So far, the results they have seen suggest it may work.

Recent animal and human studies suggest that neuromodulation with a combination of sound and electrical stimulation of nerves in your head may improve tinnitus symptoms because it stimulates neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is when your brain creates new connections between neurons.

The most comprehensive studies examining neuromodulation for treating tinnitus are the clinical trials called the TENT-A1, Tent-A2, and Tent-A3 studies.

In the results of the phase 2 TENT-A2 trial published in 2022, researchers reported that 70.3% of people with chronic tinnitus benefited from a 12-week treatment with bimodal neuromodulation. Bimodal neuromodulation is when 2 forms of stimuli are applied to help relieve tinnitus symptoms.

The Lenire device used in these studies delivers a small electric current to the surface of your tongue as well as audio tones through a set of Bluetooth headphones.

Tinnitus occurs when your brain interprets a sound when no external sound is present. It can have many different causes, such as:

Doctors often classify tinnitus as subjective or objective. Subjective tinnitus is heard only by the person with tinnitus.

Objective tinnitus can be heard by doctors with special tools. For example, a doctor may be able to hear atypical blood flow in blood vessels that’s causing your tinnitus.

Only people with subjective tinnitus were included in the TENT-A studies.

Invasive and noninvasive neuromodulation techniques have been studied for treating tinnitus.

Invasive methods

Invasive techniques involve surgically implementing some type of device into your body.

There is limited human research on invasive neuromodulation techniques for tinnitus, and no devices have been approved by the FDA at this time. Deep brain stimulation and spinal stimulation are two methods that have been investigated in a 2023 study.

Deep brain stimulation involves surgically implanting a device that delivers electrical pulses to your brain to train it to ignore tinnitus. A clinical trial is currently in the recruiting stage for investigating the use of deep brain stimulation to treat tinnitus in humans.

Spinal stimulation is a similar procedure, but the implanted device stimulates your upper spinal cord, per a 2020 case report.

Noninvasive methods

The type of neuromodulation with the most research to back its use for treating tinnitus is bimodule neuromodulation, with a combination of an auditory stimulus and electric stimulation.

The Lenire device was FDA approved to treat tinnitus in 2023 in the United States based on the results of the Tent-A3 trial.

Studies have found mixed evidence about the effectiveness of another type of noninvasive neuromodulation called transcranial magnetic stimulation for treating tinnitus. Transcranial magnetic stimulation uses powerful magnets to stimulate cells in your brain.

Researchers are continuing to examine other techniques, such as combining magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with auditory stimulation.

The Lenire device received FDA approval based on the results of the TENT-A3 clinical trial. In this study, 112 people had their chronic subjective tinnitus treated with the Lenire device.

In the previous TENT-A2 trial, researchers found that 70.3% of people reported feeling like they benefited from the treatment, and 87.8% reported that they would recommend the treatment to somebody else with tinnitus.

Tinnitus doesn’t have a cure, but some people experience improvement from the following treatments.

Learn about tinnitus treatment.

Neuromodulation has been FDA-approved to treat tinnitus since only March 2023. So, it’s not clear yet how much clinics are charging for the treatment.

One hearing loss clinic with centers in Colorado and Arizona reports that their initial tinnitus testing costs $80 to $185. The cost of their tinnitus retraining therapy, which includes 10 visits, costs $2,520 as of April 2023.

Neuromodulation is a promising new type of treatment for people with chronic tinnitus. The type of neuromodulation with the most research to back its use for treating tinnitus involves applying a small amount of electricity to your tongue and listening to certain tones through headphones.

Your doctor can help you decide whether you may benefit from neuromodulation. The first noninvasive neuromodulation device for tinnitus was FDA-approved in March 2023.