Allen Vaught is a 40-year-old Iraq War veteran with Purple Heart — and a persistent case of ringing in the ears. His tinnitus was caused by his time in Irag, where he spent a year as Army Captain. In June 2003, an IED exploded under his Humvee in Sadr City. “I noticed a very loud explosion,” Vaught said. “This column of dirt rose in the air.” He survived with a broken back, and was awarded a Purple Heart for his bravery. Now, he also has to deal with constant ringing in the ear.
Tinnitus is the most-common service-related disability for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The condition is often 24/7 ringing or buzzing in the ear, sensitivity to noise and pitch, and makes it difficult for sufferers to sleep and function normally in everyday life. There is no tinnitus cure as of yet. Many sufferers try multiple medical treatments and and over-the-counter tinnitus treatment.
A US company called Microtransponder is testing in Belgium an implant that stimulates nerves in the neck to reduce tinnitus symptoms. More than half of patients have reported significant reduction in early testing phases. The company hopes to move clinical trials into the US by next year. They are hopeful they can help veterans like Vaught live an easier day-to-day life and eventually find a tinnitus cure.