Background: There is increasing evidence from animal and human studies that bimodal neuromodulation combining sound and electrical somatosensory stimulation of the tongue can induce extensive brain changes and treat tinnitus.
Objective: The main objectives of the proposed clinical study are to confirm the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of treatment demonstrated in a previous large-scale study of bimodal auditory and trigeminal nerve (tongue) stimulation (Treatment Evaluation of Neuromodulation for Tinnitus - Stage A1); evaluate the therapeutic effects of adjusting stimulation parameters over time; and determine the contribution of different features of bimodal stimulation in improving tinnitus outcomes.
Methods: This study will be a prospective, randomized, double-blind, parallel-arm, comparative clinical trial of a 12-week treatment for tinnitus using a Conformité Européenne (CE)-marked device with a pre-post and 12-month follow-up design. Four treatment arms will be investigated, in which each arm consists of two different stimulation settings, with the first setting presented during the first 6 weeks and the second setting presented during the next 6 weeks of treatment. The study will enroll 192 participants, split in a ratio of 80:80:16:16 across the four arms. Participants will be randomized to one of four arms and stratified to minimize baseline variability in four categories: two separate strata for sound level tolerance (using loudness discomfort level as indicators for hyperacusis severity), high tinnitus symptom severity based on the Tinnitus Handicap Inventory (THI), and tinnitus laterality. The primary efficacy endpoints are within-arm changes in THI and Tinnitus Functional Index as well as between-arm changes in THI after 6 weeks of treatment for the full cohort and two subgroups of tinnitus participants (ie, one hyperacusis subgroup and a high tinnitus symptom severity subgroup). Additional efficacy endpoints include within-arm or between-arm changes in THI after 6 or 12 weeks of treatment and in different subgroups of tinnitus participants as well as at posttreatment assessments at 6 weeks, 6 months, and 12 months. Treatment safety, attrition rates, and compliance rates will also be assessed and reported.
Results: This study protocol was approved by the Tallaght University Hospital/St. James's Hospital Joint Research Ethics Committee in Dublin, Ireland. The first participant was enrolled on March 20, 2018. The data collection and database lock are expected to be completed by February 2020, and the data analysis and manuscript submission are expected to be conducted in autumn of 2020.
Conclusions: The findings of this study will be disseminated to relevant research, clinical, and health services and patient communities through publications in peer-reviewed journals and presentations at scientific and clinical conferences.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT03530306; https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03530306.
International registered report identifier (irrid): DERR1-10.2196/13176.
Keywords: auditory cortex; auditory nerve; bimodal; neuromodulation; pain; plasticity; precision medicine; tinnitus; trigeminal nerve; vagus nerve.
©Brendan Conlon, Caroline Hamilton, Stephen Hughes, Emma Meade, Deborah A Hall, Sven Vanneste, Berthold Langguth, Hubert H Lim. Originally published in JMIR Research Protocols (http://www.researchprotocols.org), 27.09.2019.