Since its launch in 2008, Lyric represents the
first and only device of its kind establishing
a new category of hearing solution: 24/7
extended wear. Lyric is placed several
millimetres within the ear canal, near the
tympanic membrane, so it is 100% invisible,
and worn 24 hours a day for months at a
time. Lyric is worn during all daily activities
including showering, sleeping and exer-
cising. This frees the wearer from typical
hassles presented by traditional hearing
aids, including multiple daily device inser-
tions or removals, battery changes, and
cleaning. Moreover, the placement of the
device near the tympanic membrane
enables the anatomy of the ear to naturally
transform sound before it enters the Lyric
microphone for amplification (Figure 1).
Lyric not only delivers significant
acoustic, practical, and cosmetic benefits
to wearers, but it also offers practical
improvements to the option of daily wear
devices. Patients report ease of use with
the phone, in wind, hearing important
sounds during the night and never
misplacing their hearing devices. Lyric also
provides a new opportunity to understand
how continuous auditory stimulation
could impact patients with mild to
moderate hearing loss – and more specifi-
cally, patients with tinnitus.
Subjective tinnitus, the phantom percep-
tion of sound with no identifiable sound
source, significantly reduces an individual’s
quality of life . The tinnitus patient lives
with a complex constellation of symptoms
including challenges to sleep, concentra-
tion, and cognition that, over time, can
include anxiety, anger, depression, and loss
of control . Additionally, these patients
have well-characterised alterations in
neuronal activity in auditory and non-audi-
tory pathways .
For the practitioner, evaluation and care
of tinnitus is complicated by the diversity
of clinical presentations, the lack of a single
underlying cause (Table 1), patient co-
morbidities, wide promotion of non-
proven treatments, the variability in treat-
ment response, and the neediness of the
patient. Treatment also requires a variety of
types of intervention that are not easily
provided by a single practitioner.
However, a common underlying patho-
physiology shared by tinnitus patients is
that 80% have a concomitant hearing
deficit that they are often not aware of .
Subjective tinnitus has an estimated 10-
14% prevalence worldwide  and tinnitus
patients are in the office with increasing
frequency because, different from the 10%
of people living with self-reported
Lyric 24/7 hearing: could it help
those with tinnitus?
Medical Director, Lyric,
Phonak Silicone Valley;
of Otolaryngology, Head
& Neck Surgery,
University of California –
President, San Francisco
Board of Directors,
Quality Assurance Chair,
Brown and Toland
to seek information and find treatment.
Research suggests that patients with chronic tinnitus can experience
relief when provided increased input into the auditory pathway
with a hearing aid [6, 7]. However, there are a few characteristics
inherent to traditional hearing aid wear that can limit the potential
benefits. First, these devices often require a few months of wear
before patients adjust to amplification. Second, traditional hearing
aids typically have low adherence in many patients, and must be
removed throughout the day for a variety of common activities, like
showering, exercising, and especially sleeping . The result is that
the increased auditory input provided by the device is not consis-
tently present, and is conspicuously absent when tinnitus is most
bothersome during the quiet nighttime hours.
Patient criteria, study measures, and study design
The study selected patients who reported continuous tinnitus for at
least one year. Exclusion criteria included hearing loss outside of the
Lyric fitting range, previous experience with Lyric, hearing aid use
within one year, any tinnitus treatment within the last month, use of
tinnitus-inducing medication, drug or alcohol abuse, smoking, any
contraindications to Lyric wear, significant health issues, Tinnitus
Functional Index (TFI) scores less than 25, and moderate or severe
depression or extreme stress as measured by the Patient Health
Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) and the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS),
The TFI provides a validated tool that scales the overall severity
of tinnitus and the negative impact of tinnitus in eight subdomains
in each patient, as well as responsiveness to treatment. Specifically,
the TFI evaluates eight domains of tinnitus impact on a 0-10
response format: intrusive, sense of control, cognitive, sleep, audi-
tory, relaxation, quality of life, and emotional . The total score is
then scaled 0-100, with >18 representing a small problem, >31
representing a moderate problem, and >51 representing a big
measures nonspecific perceived stress, and the degree to which
patients perceive that their demands exceed their coping ability.
The PHQ-9 is a self-administered screen for depression.
After initial TFI evaluation, each patient was assessed for appro-
priate candidacy for Lyric according to existing Lyric provider guide-
lines. Criteria include a healthy ear canal and tympanic membrane,
generally healthy patient, appropriate audiologic profile of mild to
moderate hearing loss, and adequate ear canal geometry. Then, the
device is placed and programmed by a Lyric trained and certified
hearing care professional, and patients return approximately every
two to three months for a ten-minute device replacement.
Following assessment, participants were fitted with Lyric binau-
rally to wear continuously for three months. TFI was evaluated at
baseline, two weeks, one month, and three months of Lyric wear.
The study audiologists were instructed not to provide any addi-
tional tinnitus counselling or supportive measures in order to isolate
the benefit of continuous, increased auditory input from Lyric.
The 15 study participants had an average age of 62 (42-74), across
nine males and six females. Based on initial TFI score stratification,
33% had a small problem, 50% had a moderate problem, and 17%
had a big problem with tinnitus. The severity of the tinnitus did not
correlate with the patients’ hearing loss but rather had a linear rela-
tionship with their PSS and PHQ-9 scores, showing the influence of
stress and mental health measures on tinnitus experience.
Most studies of tinnitus measure the impact of treatment at two
to four months however, given the continuous nature of auditory
stimulation from an extended wear hearing device, it was of interest
to evaluate how quickly any effect could be recorded.
Encouragingly, all enrolled patients were subjectively aware of an
immediate reduction of tinnitus at the Lyric fitting appointment.
At the two week evaluation, the ‘moderate problem’ group
achieved a meaningful overall TFI reduction which was maintained
at the three month evaluation (Figure 2). On average, patients expe-
rienced a decrease in tinnitus impact on all eight domains
throughout all time points, with the exception of the ‘cognitive’
domain at two weeks. The greatest improvements were observed in
Vestibular schwannoma, meningioma
Sensorineural hearing loss, Ménière’s disease, vestibular vertigo
Impacted cerumen, otosclerosis, presbyacusis, noise exposure
Meningitis, migraine, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy
Head or neck injury, loss of consciousness
Temporomandibular joint disorder
Systemic lupus erythematosus, systemic sclerosis
Endocrine and metabolic
Diabetes mellitus, hyperinsulinemia, hypothyroidism, hormonal changes during pregnancy
Anxiety, depression, emotional trauma
Analgesics, antibiotics, antineoplastic drugs, corticosteroids ,diuretics, immunosuppressive drugs,
non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Table 1: Known risk factors for developing tinnitus and conditions associated with tinnitus symptoms.
Table adapted from Baguley D, McFerran D, Hall D. Tinnitus. Lancet 2013;
life’ subscales, however, only the ‘auditory’
subscale improvement approached statis-
tical significance (Figure 3). This reflects the
fact that regardless of patient awareness of
hearing loss at study start, patients
observed a significant improvement in
their hearing associated with their tinnitus.
The results of this pilot study has catalysed
a more robustly powered three-arm
tinnitus treatment study comparing tradi-
tional hearing aids, hearing aids with a
tinnitus treatment, and Lyric.
Until findings from more studies are
determined, there are several recommen-
dations that can be adopted immediately
to benefit not only tinnitus patients, but
also the practices that treat them.
First, it is important to recognise that
tinnitus patients are uniquely motivated to
seek treatment, unlike normal hearing loss
patients, and if satisfied with the mitigation
of their symptoms tend to be loyal to their
Second, tinnitus patients should be
objectively graded at intake using auditory,
medical, and psychological measures for
correct evaluation, which can lead to
better diagnosis and treatment. The
creation of a multidisciplinary team who
can address the auditory, medical, and
psychological aspects of tinnitus reduces
the burden of care on any individual prac-
titioner while providing the comprehensive
care needed by tinnitus patients .
Finally, while continuous wear hearing
aids seem to show promise in treating
tinnitus on their own, research shows
counselling in addition to amplification
can do even more to return tinnitus
patients to an improved quality of life .
As no counselling was built into this pilot
study, we can imagine another study
regarding the levels of tinnitus relief that
could be possible if Lyric was used in
combination with a comprehensive, struc-
tured treatment plan addressing all aspects
of the problem.
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