Hospital develops smartphone app for tinnitus sufferers

Local doctors have developed the world's first online system that will allow people to self check their tinnitus, buzzing in the ear, and get free advice for treatment.

People suffering from tinnitus can now check and treat their condition using a free smartphone app, its developer, the Shanghai Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital, said at the weekend.

The Erming RS, or tinnitus recovery system, is the world’s first online tinnitus check, diagnosis and treatment platform, it said. It is available on app stores for both iOS and Android. 

At present, it is only in Chinese but a new generation system is being developed which will be bilingual and also serve as a big data collector and patient management platform while educating people about prevention and control.

The incidence of tinnitus among adults is about 10 to 15 percent and most people’s tinnitus can be related to hearing loss. However, about 60 to 70 percent of sufferers don’t have specific primary ear diseases such as middle ear infections. Long-term pressure, heavy workloads, anxiety or depressive disorders and improper use of in-ear headphones can also lead to tinnitus.

Both the public and grassroots doctors have a poor understanding of the problem, resulting in misdiagnosis and delayed or improper treatment, doctors said.

The online system provides 12 of the most common tones or sounds to allow people to match the pitch of their tinnitus. Sufferers can then receive individualized sound therapy according to the frequency and characteristics of their tinnitus. 

“Sounds for tinnitus therapy are often boring and unpleasant, thus we especially modulate the soothing music with the tinnitus treatment sounds in order to enable patients to adhere to long-time listening,” said the hospital’s Dr Li Huawei, major developer of the system. 

Trials found that about 80 percent of people said their tinnitus reduced or disappeared after listening to the treatment sounds for one to three months.

“Before using the system, we suggest people with tinnitus come to hospital for a comprehensive check to eliminate primary diseases,” Li said. “The system will help save medical resources, provide data for further tinnitus diagnosis and treatment and also help people manage their tinnitus.” 

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