Theranostics and therapy of tinnitus using spatial hearing
Brandenburg Labs and TU Ilmenau develop special headphones for tinnitus therapy
Brandenburg Labs and the Technische Universität Ilmenau are starting a research project in which they develop specialized headphones for the diagnosis and therapy of tinnitus. The headphones with spatial audio will enable a closer link between tinnitus diagnosis and therapy (theranostics) and improve the quality of life of tinnitus sufferers. The two-year collaborative project is funded under the Directive for the Promotion of Research, Technology and Innovation of Thüringen as part of the European Union’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic (REACT-EU).
In Europe alone, an estimated 46 million people suffer from tinnitus. Often, the cause cannot be identified. Sufferers perceive tones or sounds to which no real sound source can be attributed. Many people experience this as a considerable restriction of their quality of life. Conventional treatment methods, such as hearing, behavioral and talk therapies, are controversial and their effectiveness is often not scientifically proven. In addition, these treatments are costly for those affected, as they take place over several sessions at the therapist’s office.
The research project “Theranostics and Therapy of Tinnitus by means of Spatial Hearing” (TheraTin), which is led by the Brandenburg Labs GmbH and in which two departments of the TU Ilmenau are involved, will significantly improve the situation of tinnitus sufferers. The new technology promises several advantages – for the treating therapist as well as for the affected person. The currently subjective identification of the cause will be more objectified. For the measurement of the electrical activity of the affected person’s brain, EEG sensors will be used, which are built into the headphones. The automatic analysis of the brain signals support an objective assessment of the tinnitus by the therapist. This makes a better treatment possible.
For the person affected, hearing with the headphones, which work on the basis of the so-called plausible spatial audio synthesis, that has been significantly further developed in Ilmenau, is a great relief. Through the immersive hearing experience, he or she no longer perceives the virtual sound sources in his or her head, but in space. Therefore, the sufferers are able to focus on the externalized sound source instead of the tinnitus sounds in their head. This significantly supports tinnitus therapy. Since sufferers can use the portable headphones at home, in the office or anywhere else, they are independent of location and do not have to go to a therapist for either the examination or the treatment.
The task of the Department of Biosignal Processing at TU Ilmenau in the TheraTin project is to identify indicators by which the electrical activities of the auditory apparatus can be clearly assigned to tinnitus. The head of the department, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Peter Husar, sees this as a great challenge:
“It will not be easy to identify the spatial direction of a sound source that is not actually present and is responsible for the tinnitus. Nevertheless, I am confident that we will be able to do so in a demonstrable and reproducible manner, as required by scientific procedure.”
Dr. Stephan Werner, Acting Head of the Electronic Media Technology Department, also sees challenges in the project:
“In order to be able to comprehensively integrate a sufferer’s ability to hear spatially into tinnitus therapy, the sufferers must not be able to distinguish the virtual sound sources from real sound sources in the room. This is one of the reasons why we will work together with experienced tinnitus therapists in the project.”
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Karlheinz Brandenburg, CEO of the project coordinator Brandenburg Labs GmbH, is very confident about the two-year research and development project:
“We have set ourselves a lot of goals for this time. Thanks to the preliminary work in the departments of the TU Ilmenau Electronic Media Technology and Biosignal Processing as well as at Brandenburg Labs, we are sure that we will be able to achieve good results. New indicators for therapeutic options for tinnitus will emerge.”
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Karlheinz Brandenburg
CEO Brandenburg Labs GmbH
+ 49 171 3665866
Head of Media and Press Relations Technische Universität Ilmenau
+49 3677 69-5003
Communications Brandenburg Labs GmbH
Follow the links below for futher information about the TU Ilmenau project partnerns: