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Loyola Study Evaluates Magnetic Therapy for Tinnitus

MAYWOOD, Ill. - Loyola University Medical Center is studying whether a new form of non-invasive magnetic therapy can help people who suffer debilitating tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

The therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), sends short pulses of magnetic fields to the brain. TMS has been approved since 2009 for patients who have major depression and have failed at least one antidepressant.

The Loyola study will include patients who suffer from both depression and tinnitus. Recent studies have found that about 12 percent of people with chronic tinnitus also suffer depression and anxiety - a rate three times higher than that of the general population.

Tinnitus is the perception of sound in one or both ears when there is no external source. It can include ringing, hissing, roaring, whistling, chirping or clicking. About 50 million Americans have at least some tinnitus; 16 million seek medical attention and about 2 million are seriously debilitated, according to the American Tinnitus Association. There is no cure.

The perception of phantom sounds can be more pronounced in people who are depressed. Moreover, antidepressant medications can cause tinnitus occasionally, said Murali Rao, MD, DFAPA, FAPM, principal investigator of Loyola's TMS tinnitus study.

Several earlier studies have found that TMS can benefit tinnitus patients. Loyola's study is the first to examine patients who suffer from both tinnitus and depression. "The combination of these two conditions can be extremely debilitating," Rao said.

During TMS treatment, the patient reclines in a comfortable padded chair. A magnetic coil, placed next to the left side of the head, sends short pulses of magnetic fields to the surface of the brain. This produces currents that stimulate brain cells. The currents, in turn, affect mood-regulatory circuits deeper in the brain. The resulting changes in the brain appear to be beneficial to patients who suffer depression. Each treatment lasts 35 to 40 minutes.

The study will enroll 10 to 15 patients. Each patient will receive five treatments a week for four to six weeks, for a total of 20 to 30 treatments. Each patient will be evaluated by a physician three times during the treatment course, or more frequently if the doctor deems necessary.

The treatments do not require anesthesia or sedation. Afterward, a patient can immediately resume normal activities, including driving. Studies have found that patients do not experience memory loss or seizures. Side effects include mild headache or tingling in the scalp, which can be treated with acetaminophen.

Rao is chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. Other investigators are Matthew Niedzwiecki, MD, a psychiatry resident; and James Sinacore, PhD, a statistician.

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

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Jim Ritter
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Anne Dillon
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