Auckland University researchers trialing MDMA as tinnitus cure

Anybody who spent the late 1980’s and most of the 1990’s next to large soundsystems in fields and dank warehouses will, we hope, find the serendipity in this research !

Newhub NZ report

A party drug could be the cure for the hundreds of thousands of Kiwis who live with tinnitus.

After recreational users reported MDMA helped the ringing in their ears, Auckland University audiologist Grant Searchfield started looking into the science and is putting it to the test with Otago University.

“We had a number of people attending our clinic who said that recreationally they had tried ecstasy, which its main active component is this drug, MDMA, and they’d noticed that the tinnitus had gone away,” he said.

“Now initially I didn’t pay too much attention to that but when it happened a number of times we began to look into the science behind it.”

Prior to becoming a party drug, MDMA was developed to help with mental health disorders.

“It’s like a supercharged antidepressant,” Searchfield said.

“What we believe with the MDMA is it modifies the brain’s reaction to tinnitus as a sound.”

But he warns people to not try it at home because “we also know people on forums have reported MDMA makes their tinnitus worse”.

A second study is looking at an app that is designed to train brains through a tinnitus game.

“It’s a little bit like going and doing physiotherapy or exercise as opposed to taking medication,” Searchfield said.

Both trials are due to start later this year and they’re looking for participants.

There is no cure for tinnitus, but New Zealand’s work in the field is globally recognised and this latest research is a world first.

It’s funded by the Auckland Medical Research Foundation and Searchfield is presenting his work at a free seminar later this month.

Kiwi Tessa Law, who has had tinnitus for four years, said she “would do anything” to help turn the ringing in her ears down.

“My primary sound is the cicadas, there’s also the screeching train brakes, and very occasionally I get the tea kettle on top,” she said.

“I literally woke up with it one morning and it was both ears, loud. You could not get away from it and at that point I honestly thought I would not be able to have a normal life. I think I started crying, and I cried for six months.”

She’s hoping to be one of the trial participants using MDMA to help with her tinnitus.


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