Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and Tinnitus

Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and Tinnitus

July 24, 2015 In the News

Millions of people across the globe experience a reduced quality of life due to tinnitus. “Tinnitus (the perception of ringing or other phantom sounds in the ears or head) is perceived by 10-15 percent of the adult population. Of those individuals who experience chronic tinnitus, approximately 20 percent consider it to be a ‘clinically significant’ problem.”  

Robert Folmer, PhD, (Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center & Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, Oregon) and associates randomly assigned 70 people with chronic tinnitus to experience either 2,000 pulses per session of active or placebo repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS, a non-invasive electromagnetic pulse delivered to the patient's scalp) over 10 consecutive workdays. Post-treatment assessments occurred up to 26 weeks post-treatment. Sixty-four people completed the protocol. Tinnitus was measured with the Tinnitus Functional Index (TFI).

Of note, those who received the active treatment experienced a 31 percent decrease in their TFI score at the 26 week follow-up, as compared to a 7 percent decrease experienced by the placebo group. Eighteen out of 32 people in the active group and seven of 32 people in the placebo group “responded” to rTMS treatment (i.e., improved from baseline to the end of their last rTMS session, as indicated by the TFI).  

The authors concluded that rTMS should not be viewed as a replacement for currently available and effective tinnitus management strategies. Rather, rTMS might be used to augment existing therapies and may provide an option for people who do not respond well to current management therapies.

For More Information, References, and Recommendations

Folmer R,  Theodoroff S,  Casiana L,  Shi Y, Griest S, Vachhani J. (2015)  Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Treatment for Chronic Tinnitus: A Randomized Clinical. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg July 16.

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