For tinnitus sufferers, relief may sound like a new startup out of McMaster Innovation Park.
Sound Options Tinnitus Treatment was founded in 2012 by Michael Chrostowski, who completed his PhD in
neuroscience at McMaster University.
“One analogy for (tinnitus) is phantom limb. When someone loses an arm they still feel pain or an itch,” he says.
“The brain is trying to compensate for hearing loss and so it kind of ramps up internal noise as it does that, and you end up hearing sounds when there is no sound externally.”
This can take the form of buzzing, hissing or ringing in the ears.
Before launching Sound Options, Chrostowski worked with labs at McMaster to test roughly 60 subjects, aged 19 through 70. Subjects had hearing damage for a variety of reasons, ranging from playing in bands to working in steel mills.
Some had only mild tinnitus. Others broke down during clinical trials. They said it was so persistent, it woke them up in the middle of the night.
Chrostowski conducted hearing tests and developed software that creates customized sound therapy in the form of classical music. Chrostowski says that by listening to these recordings for one to two hours a day, subjects reported reduced tinnitus. “The fact that it was no longer top of mind and just invading every aspect of their lives — that it was basically something that was just moved to the background — that really changed things a lot for them.”
Right now the software, which costs $250 to $300, is available online and through 10 pharmacies in Southern Ontario. Chrostowski says his goal for 2015 is to expand into pharmacy franchises.
The company also includes co-founders Shelly-Anne Li and Lu Han.
Name of owners: Michael Chrostowski, founder and president of Sound Options Tinnitus Treatment.
What they do: Develop treatment for tinnitus sufferers.
Who nominated: David Carter, executive director, Innovation Factory.
Why they were nominated: The Canadian Tinnitus Foundation notes that more than 360,000 Canadians suffer from chronic tinnitus and almost half of those are affected severely. Many treatments are expensive and only work to help mask the sounds related to tinnitus, not provide a solution to target the cause. The software that Sounds Options has developed is clinically proven and is customized to treat each individual’s specific case of tinnitus.”
905-526-2487 | @Amyatthespec