Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) for Tinnitus

Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) is being studied as a possible tinnitus treatment.  Past studies on rTMS have shown variable results.  A recent study found rTMS could be a promising new tinnitus treatment approach for people with normal hearing.  This was a double-blind controlled study.  People in the study were set up using the rTMS equipment, but only half really got the treatment.  Treatments or placebo (no actual treatment) were done over 5 consecutive days.  Results before and after were measured using a tinnitus questionnaire as well as brain imaging studies.

After the 5 days of treatment, people who received rTMS reported lower tinnitus distress and their brain imaging results showed reduced activity.  This improvement was found 1 month and 6 months after treatment. The authors suggest that this treatment looks promising for people with tinnitus and normal hearing, but people with hearing loss are not as good candidates for this type of treatment since hearing loss may reduce or shorten the treatment effects.

Jan’s Opinion: I would give this a go if I could get into a clinical trial locally since I have normal hearing.

Note:  Some people in rTMS studies have facial muscle twitching.  They believe results may be affected because they think the facial muscle twitching helps them tell if they were getting the placebo or the real treatment.   The Editors of Tinnitus Today report that this facial muscle twitching can happen with active or placebo rTMS treatments.  They state researchers have found that people do no better than chance at guessing whether they had real or placebo treatment.

Marcondes, R., Sanchez, T., Kii, M., Ono, C., Buchpiguel, C., Langguth, B., & Marcolin, M. (2010). Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation improve tinnitus in normal hearing patients: a double-blind controlled, clinical and neuroimaging outcome study. European Journal of Neurology, 17: 38-44.

Editor’s Note (December 2009), Tinnitus Today, p. 5

Jan L. Mayes ©2010