We now know Neuroplasticity and tVNS are key in treating Tinnitus
A recent study has been published illustrating the connection between chronic pain and tinnitus, although this connection has actually been observed for more than 30 years now. Both conditions have what’s known as a ‘phantom pain’, that is a pain that is not arising from any external cause.
In tinnitus, the sensation that is being experienced is in the perceiver's brain. The study, published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, found that the ‘phantom pain’ often begins from the response to an injury but then continues when the brain is then unable to process the pain or noise.
This then leads the individual from experiencing a real sensation (noise/injury), to a phantom sensation created in the brain. This study has confirmed the previously hypothesized link between the two conditions lies in the ability of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and the nucleus accumbens to act as a filter to determine which sounds or sensations to pay attention to.
A disfunction in the part of the brain can lead to the chronic loop of unpleasant sensations such as physical pain or unpleasant frequencies of sound in the case of tinnitus.
This finding supports the treatment method currently used by the Tinnitus Treatment Centre, who treat tinnitus using a technique involving Transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulation (tVNS) and Sound Therapy (ST).
The tVNS treatment promotes neuroplasticity which is a process in which brain circuitry is more easily changed, where it is possibly for these negatively cycling loops to be over-ridden by the correct brain circuitry.
Even though this research supports the treatment methods of tVNS which are in use by both the Helsinki Ear Institute and the Tinnitus Treatment Centre- the therapeutic effects of stimulating the vagus nerve which promotes neuroplasticity and rebalancing the nervous system through parasympathetic response, are not regularly cited even though they have helped countless sufferers overcome their phantom pain conditions.
It is neuroplasticity that can lead to undesired pathways creating a phantom pain loop, and it is harnessed neuroplasticity though vagus nerve stimulation and sound therapy that can change this pathway and reverse a patient's tinnitus.