A daily blast of sound and electrical pulses may tame tinnitus

A new technique to tackle the phantom noises of tinnitus brought total relief for some patients and eased symptoms in half those who tried it

Peace at last. A new treatment has shown promise for taming tinnitus, a ringing or grating sound which affects one in 10 people.

Existing treatments are limited to behavioural programmes that help patients better tolerate the condition or to drastic and risky surgery involving electrical implants, such as deep brain stimulation.

The new treatment disrupts synchronised brain signals thought to be responsible for the unwanted ringing. It does this by feeding pulses of sound into a patient’s ear and alternating, a moment later, with mild electrical pulses to the neck and face. A portable device delivers the sound through earphones and the pulses to electrodes taped to the skin.

In a trial, 20 patients with somatic tinnitus, a common form, used the device for 30 minutes a day for a month. All 20 also unknowingly trialled a control