FDA-approved device uses tongue zaps to calm tormenting tinnitus: costs $4,000

For the over 25 million Americans who suffer from the constant ringing, buzzing, or other phantom noises of tinnitus, an new device offers hope for relief from the relentless disorder. NPR reports on an FDA-approved device, called the Lenire, that reduces tinnitus by using electrical stimulation of the tongue combined with sound therapy to help desensitize the brain to the disruptive sounds.

"It's the combination of what you're feeling through the nerves in your tongue and what you're hearing through your ears happening in synchrony that causes the spotlight in your brain to not be so stuck on the tinnitus," audiologist Brian Fligor explains. "It unsticks your spotlight" and helps desensitize people to the perceived noise.

Victoria Banks, a musician who tried Lenire, says "My brain is now focusing on other things," and the tinnitus buzz is no longer so distracting after using the device. "I'm doing all of those things," like listening to and performing music again, she says.

Research shows the benefits can last at least a year, but longer-term durability is still unknown. The Lenire device costs around $4,000 and is not yet covered by insurance.

Previously: Stimulating the tongue with electricity reduces tinnitus