Low-level laser therapy proves to be the most effective treatment for tinnitus, a widespread symptom affecting around 750 million people worldwide, as revealed by a study conducted by Brazilian scientists from the Optics and Photonics Research Center (CEPOF). The research indicates that laser therapy, including laser acupuncture, significantly helps alleviate tinnitus symptoms through anti-inflammatory action and promoting inner ear cell proliferation and blood flow.
CEPOF, a Research, Innovation, and Dissemination Center (RIDC) based at the University of São Paulo’s São Carlos Institute of Physics in Brazil, undertook a study involving over 100 male and female participants aged between 18 and 65 suffering from idiopathic and refractory tinnitus. The study tested a range of treatments including laser acupuncture, medicinal plant Ginkgo biloba, flunarizine dihydrochloride, and low-level laser stimulation of the internal auditory canal.
Vitor Hugo Panhóca, a researcher at CEPOF, stated, “Tinnitus is a very widespread symptom throughout the general population. It’s treated with a vast number of methods, from ear lavage to local anesthetics, anti-depressants, anti-histamines, anti-psychotics and sedatives, with different results. After finding articles in the scientific literature that presented consistent laser therapy outcomes, we decided to compare the main treatments and pursue more responses to the problem.”
During the four-week study, participants were randomly divided into ten groups and underwent eight treatment sessions. Assessments were made before and after the treatment and two weeks later using a ‘tinnitus handicap inventory questionnaire’. It was observed that the best outcomes were associated with laser acupuncture and low-power laser stimulation of the internal auditory canal, particularly when the irradiation time was increased from 6 to 15 minutes.
Panhóca explained the benefits: “The positive effects include anti-inflammatory action and relaxation. We believe laser therapy can increase peripheral irrigation, which may be the main cause of the problem in many cases, as well as stimulating inner ear cell proliferation and collagen production.”
This study is crucial in paving the way for developing a standardized protocol for healthcare professionals to treat tinnitus using laser therapy. Panhóca emphasized the importance of understanding successful therapies: “This is part of the learning curve when you innovate in health treatments like this,” adding that investigation into the long-term effects of laser therapy is also essential.
The study, published in the Journal of Personalized Medicine, was supported by FAPESP and involved collaboration with researchers from various institutions in Brazil and the Tyndall National Institute at University College Cork in Ireland.