MindEar, a medtech startup aiming to commercialise its treatment for the ‘bothersome’ hearing condition of tinnitus, has been given a boost by a global research team that has found a ‘clinically significant improvement’ for a majority of participants in a recent study.
The Sydney-based startup, founded by biomedical engineer Dr Matthieu Recugnat and neuroscientist Dr Fabrice Bardy, has already released an app that delivers a training course and sound therapy for the condition via a smartphone.
However, findings from research conducted by a team from Australia, New Zealand, France and Belgium have been revealed on open science platform Frontiers in Audiology and Otology, showing almost two thirds of 30 participants in the initial trial reported a significant improvement in their tinnitus, commonly referred to as a ‘ringing in the ears’.
Following the success of the original trial, the research team has laid plans for larger trials in the UK in collaboration with the University College London Hospital.
MindEar, formerly known as Tinnibot, is said to offer hope for millions affected by tinnitus who have been told that there is nothing they can do about it or who face long wait times for treatment.
“We know it is a complex condition which is why it has been particularly hard to crack,” Recugnat tells Business News Australia.
“The entry point for us is the free app that provides basic information about what you can do about tinnitus.”
The France-born founders of MindEar met in Sydney at the Australian Hearing Hub based at Macquarie University which hosts a number of major players in the hearing space including Cochlear (ASX: COH).
“Fabrice and I shared this vision of creating a mutual approach for hearing conditions such as tinnitus. There was a big, big need for tinnitus patients as it is a condition that affects a lot of people for different reasons," Dr Recugnat explains.
“We created a product that could be used to increase the accessibility and affordability of solutions. A lot of the time people who suffer from tinnitus will go to GPs and when there is no underlying condition that can be treated with drugs or surgery, they are told there is nothing that can be done. That is in fact not entirely true.
“There are things you can do in terms of changing your perception of the noise change your lifestyle to reduce the stress and anxiety of the constant ringing so you can live a full life.
“Our idea was to combine all those things in one app and provide the most complete and accessible solution for tinnitus management.”
The app was first launched in 2021 and refined further late last year.
Professor Suzanne Purdy, a psychology specialist at University of Auckland who participated in the latest trial, says cognitive behavioural therapy is known to help people with tinnitus, although it requires a trained psychologist.
“That’s expensive, and often difficult to access,” she says.
“MindEar uses a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness and relaxation exercises as well as sound therapy to help you train your brain’s reaction so that we can tune out tinnitus. The sound you perceive fades in the background and is much less bothersome.”
Bardy says in the initial trial, two thirds of users of the chatbot saw improvement after 16 weeks.
“This was shortened to only eight weeks when patients additionally had access to an online psychologist,” he says.
The MindEar app provides a training program to equip the mind and body to suppress stress hormones and responses to reduce the brain’s focus on tinnitus.
Recugnat says while it is a ‘big condition’ it’s a ‘small world’ of researchers that are trying to find solutions for the condition.
Although the app is free, MindEar is commercialising the process through a premium offering where users can access additional content to treat their condition.
“Some people may need further help that will require us to coach you through the different steps,” Recugnat says.
The next level of commercialisation for MindEar is to partner with device developers that can assist patients with further treatment.
“Depending on your needs, the app allows you to self-triage into the right solution for them,” Recugnat says.
“For some people just being aware and understanding the different symptoms and what they can do about it really helps them a lot.”
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