Editor’s note: Thank you for your overwhelming response to last week’s Medical Gadget of the Week, the Empatica Embrace smartwatch. Continuing the proliferation of technology in helping the diagnosis or treatment of niche medical conditions, this week we present a device designed to treat tinnitus.
Tinnitus is a common medical condition affecting as high as 10-15% of the general populace. Tinnitus (derived from the Latin word tinnītus meaning “ringing”) is the perception of sound within the human ear when no external sound is present. (Wikipedia)
Tinnitus is known to result in irritability, anxiety, fatigue, depression, sleep disturbances and even hallucinations. Tinnitus is not a disease but a condition resulting from a variety of underlying causes, and hence does not have any specific treatment options.
According to the manufacturer, the mutebutton is a revolutionary, non-surgical medical device designed to deliver self-administered treatment for subjective tinnitus. The device consists of 3 parts: a ‘tonguetip’ that rests on the tongue, a small handheld device resembling a music player, and a set of earphones.
How it works
The device is intended to be used for 30 minutes a day, by the patient. The tonguetip rests on the tongue and stimulates the trigeminal nerve, while at the same time, the earphones deliver relaxing sounds and stimulate the auditory nerve. This provides ‘multi-sensory integration’ which is known to aid the brain in distinguishing between false and genuine sounds.
mutebutton makes use of various studies indicating the advantage of electrical stimulation of afferent cranial nerves in influencing behaviour in the brain. Electrical stimulation of the trigeminal nerve (and its branches) is recognized as a promising approach for treating tinnitus.
Unlike contemporary technologies such as noise maskers and noise makers which provide relief only while the device is in use, the mutebutton is said to provide lasting improvement. The device itself is simple enough for patients to use themselves without assistance, and involves only a 30 minute session per day, over 10 weeks. The device is compact and can be used anywhere, thus promoting treatment adherence.
The mutebutton received regulatory approval (the CE mark) in the last week of November, and is expected to launch in December in its home country, Ireland. Other European countries will receive the device in early 2015. The pricing has not been disclosed yet and will be available on the official website. But stay tuned, we will update it as soon as it is released by the company.
Non-surgical medical devices almost always receive a favourable response from the healthcare fraternity, owing to their non-invasive nature, lower costs and no hospital admission requirements. The mutebutton is an exceptional medical device that it is supported by strong clinical evidence and trials, tackles a common yet unserved need, and is not (yet another) Silicon Valley product. It will be exciting to watch the future of the mutebutton as it gains wider clinical acceptance.