Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms Could Be Reduced By Ear Canal Stimulation

There are nearly 60,000 people being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease every year in the U.S. If the trend continues, there would be nearly one million Americans living with the condition by 2020, according to the Parkinson's Foundation. 

Symptoms of Parkinson's disease commonly lead to tremor or uncontrollable movements. People may also experience limb stiffness, slow movement and changes in their voice and posture. 

A new study, published in the journal Parkinsonism and Related Disorders, suggests there is a simple way for people to reduce Parkinson's symptoms. A gentle and controlled stimulation of the ear canal has been found effective to improve the quality of life of people with the disease. 

Researchers from the University of Kent in the United Kingdom tested the stimulation therapy with 46 individuals diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. The team used a portable headset from U.S.-based firm Scion Neurostim. 

Each participant took the therapy at home and maintained their regular dopamine replacement therapy. After the study, researchers found ear canal stimulation led to enhanced movement and mobility.

The participants also reported improvements in memory, decision-making, mood, attention and sleep. Parkinson's disease symptoms were significantly reduced in people that took the therapy two times daily for two months. 

"This study raises the intriguing possibility that some aspects of Parkinson's disease may be better managed if traditional drug therapies are combined with gentle, non-invasive stimulation of the balance organs," David Wilkinson, lead researcher and a professor at Kent's School of Psychology, said in a statement

The participants also expressed confidence that the therapy made it easier for them to perform daily activities. 

"The results from this small-scale study are very exciting,” Beckie Port, a research manager at Parkinson's UK, said. “It holds a lot of promise to relieve troublesome symptoms that many with Parkinson's experience."

Wilkinson said the therapy worked better to reduce Parkinson's disease symptoms when combined with traditional drug-therapies. The researchers hope to conduct another study to understand how ear canal stimulation works on patients.

Ray Chaudhuri, director of the National Parkinson Foundation Center of Excellence at King's College Hospital, said the results of the study are “very encouraging.” The effects of the therapy stayed for weeks after study, indicating it could provide long-term benefits.

Old woman Carmen Blandin Tarleton, of Manchester, was a victim of domestic violence who received her face transplant in 2013. Pixabay