DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – After enduring the explosive sounds of war in Iraq, Allen Vaught may have been looking forward to silence.
But the Dallas veteran rarely has it.
While sitting at his desk, lying in bed at night, or playing with his kids, Vaught is interrupted by a high pitched ringing.
It is a sound that’s not really there, but one his brain believes that it hears. It happens on and off, every day, without warning. “Sometimes it will last for several minutes,” he said. “Sometimes it’s for a few seconds. Usually it’s daily, often many times a day.”
Studies show up to half of all veterans returning from war suffer from tinnitus. It’s an invisible injury often linked to repetitive loud noises. “Sometimes it’s so overwhelming you can’t focus or you can’t communicate, you can’t sleep,”Vaught said.
A small Dallas-based company though, believes it’s close to a fix. MicroTransponder is raising funding now for a device its calling Serenity.
Implanted in the body, it stimulates a nerve that essentially retrains the brain to stop believing it’s hearing the ringing.
The company is planning clinical trials in the upcoming year.
Former professional baseball pitcher Will Rosellini began putting the company together when his control struggles on the mound got him thinking. “The difference between me and Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens isn’t muscles or skeleton, it’s my nervous system.”
After leaving the Arizona Diamondbacks organization he started studying. Six graduate degrees later, he had 18 scientists together working on future solutions to not just tinnitus, but stroke recovery, post traumatic stress, and chronic pain.
In the implant’s first trial, tinnitus disappeared for 75-percent of the patients who used it.
For veterans like Vaught, it could be the cure to the war injury no one sees, or hears, but the victim.
“We’ve been overwhelmed with tinnitus patients saying, you’ve given me hope to keep going,” Rosellini said.
MicroTransponder expects to hold trials in the US and Belgium. If the device continues to show clinically significant improvements for patients, the company could attempt to receive FDA approval as early as 2014.
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