Brandenburg Labs and TU Ilmenau develop special headphones for the therapy of tinnitus
Brandenburg Labs GmbH and the TU Ilmenau are starting a research project in which they are developing a special headphone for the diagnosis and therapy of tinnitus. The headphones with spatial sound should enable a closer link between tinnitus diagnosis and therapy (theranostics) in the future and improve the quality of life of tinnitus sufferers. The two-year collaborative project is funded under the Free State of Thuringia's Directive for the Promotion of Research, Technology and Innovation 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, the cause of which is often not clearly identified. Those affected perceive tones or noises to which no real sound source can be assigned. 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 home.
Use of EEG sensors in special headphones and automatic analysis of brain signals
The research project "Theranostics and Therapy of Tinnitus by means of Spatial Hearing" (TheraTin), which is led by Brandenburg Labs GmbH from Ilmenau and in which two departments of the TU Ilmenau are involved, aims to 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 previously subjective identification of causes will be more objectified: The measurement of the electrical activity of the brain of the affected person with the help of EEG sensors in the special headphones and the automatic analysis of the brain signals supports an objective assessment of the tinnitus by the therapist, which in turn makes better treatment possible. For the person affected, hearing with the headphones, which work on the basis of the so-called plausible spatial sound synthesis that has been considerably further developed in Ilmenau, is a great relief: through the immersive hearing experience, he no longer perceives the virtual sound sources in his head, but in space. This significantly supports tinnitus therapy. Since sufferers can use the portable headphones at home, in the office or at any other location, they are also independent of location and do not have to go to a therapist for either the examination or the treatment.
Identification of the sound source responsible for the tinnitus
The task of the Group of Biosignal Processing at the 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 group, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Peter Husar, sees this as a major 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 can succeed in doing so in a demonstrable and reproducible manner, as scientific procedure dictates." Dr. Stephan Werner, Acting Head of the Group of Electronic Media Technology, 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, looks forward to the two-year research and development project with great confidence: "We have set ourselves a lot of goals for this time. Thanks to the preliminary work in the groups of TU Ilmenau Electronic Media Technology and Biosignal Processing and at Brandenburg Labs, we are sure to be able to achieve good results from which new indicators for therapeutic options for tinnitus will emerge."
Prof. Karlheinz Brandenburg
CEO Brandenburg Labs GmbH
+49 171 3665866