It is there, when Martin Jensen goes to the grocery store. In the cinema, it is there, too. A constant tone in his head, which he can do nothing to stop.
Martin Jensen is writing a PhD, which is a collaboration between University of Marburg in Germany and Eriksholm Research Centre. Through his research, he aims at helping future tinnitus patients with solutions that can fit into a hearing aid.
The motivation was not difficult to find: Not only does he suffer from tinnitus himself, he also has a Master in Psychology, and the mental aspect of the condition interests him.
“The consequences can be that people get anxious, depressed, get sleeping problems, have difficulty in concentration, or may be unable to follow conversations. Those are big problems,” Martin Jensen explains, and continues: “Many people suffer in silence, and they don’t have any hope or possibilities right now. That is why it is important that the Oticon Foundation is actively funding this area now.”
Training of the brain may help tinnitus patients
Most people know tinnitus as a constant tone in their head. To be more precise, it is a noise in your head with no physical source, which can be perceived in different ways: for instance as a tone or electrical noise. The intensity and the psychological stress caused by it varies from person to person.
But there is no cure.
Former research, however, suggests that training of the brain can actually relieve your tinnitus by both decreasing the noise and improve the psychological response. This kind of training is called neurofeedback training.
“By using neurofeedback, it is possible to change the activity in the brain by giving visual feedback on brain activity,” says Martin Jensen.
Martin and his team hope to prove that the training helps tinnitus patients and in the future maybe even put it into a hearing aid.
Neurofeedback training fiddles with the brain activity
‘The activity’ of the brain is the communication of millions of brain cells, which can have different levels of intensity – different frequencies. The more they process, the faster they communicate. If you are sleeping, for instance, the communication will be rather slow, while it will be fast, when you try to solve a mathematics assignment.
The rate of the communication is divided into five kinds of activity: delta, teta, alpha, beta, and gamma. They all exist simultaneously, but some are more dominant in specific situations than others. While sleeping, you will have a lot of delta-activity, and if you are daydreaming teta/alpha activity will be more dominant.
Research indicates a neural signature of tinnitus consisting of a decreased alpha activity, an increased delta activity, and an increased gamma activity compared to normal hearing people.