Leslie DaltonA professor at West Texas A&M may have developed an effective treatment for temporary relief from chronic tinnitus using a computer chip, software and a pair of headphones, and he hopes to have a device ready for local audiologists and hearing specialists to use by the end of the summer.

If this treatment works, even temporarily, here’s hoping it can be rolled out nationally by next year.

The chip sends a quiet and pre-programmed sound to the headphones, changing the channels sound takes to reach the brain.

Dalton, in his third year at WT, likens the process to reorganizing roads to change the way a vehicle reaches a destination. Whatever conditions lead to tinnitus affect the brain’s normal functions, causing the ringing sound, he said.

“It causes the brain to reprocess in the wrong place,” he said. “We return the hearing so that the normal part of the brain takes over.”

Dalton has seen some success with his work. Gretchen Mercer, who took Dalton’s treatment a few times during the past year, said the method completely removed her tinnitus whenever she put on the headphones.

While the treatment Dalton performs at WT provides no long-term fix for tinnitus, he said he thinks that giving patients daily access to a device at home would let them train their brains into ignoring the condition.

“Once we get to nano-technology, we can turn into a kind of hearing aid,” he said.