What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a ringing in the ears in the absence of external sound. Tinnitus is caused by changes in the brain in patients with or without hearing loss. Neurons in the brain can become hyperactive, resulting in a phantom sound. MicroTransponder’s Paired VNS™ platform is being studied for application in tinnitus. This application is known as the Serenity® System.
How The Serenity® System Works
The Serenity® System pairs Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) with sound therapy. In preclinical studies, it was shown that VNS paired with sounds enhances brain plasticity that was specific to the sound (Engineer et al., 2011). In animal models of tinnitus, it was demonstrated that pairing VNS with tones other than the tinnitus frequency decreased the excitability and simultaneous firing of auditory neurons and over time, resulted in suppression of the tinnitus sound.
Serenity® System Overview
The patient is given a set of headphones, laptop and a wireless transmitter. The therapy is done in the comfort of the patient's home or office. The patient starts the program and the wireless transmitter sends a gentle VNS pulse via the implanted device. During VNS therapy, the patient listens to sounds with different pitch frequencies that exclude the tinnitus frequency. Over time, repeated VNS sound pairing helps retune the auditory neurons by suppressing the firing of neurons responsible for the tinnitus.