MuteButton, which has developed a novel medical device to successfully treat people suffering from permanent tinnitus, has secured a €200,000 investment from Enterprise Ireland. Permanent tinnitus is estimated to affect over 20,000 people in Ireland alone and over 40 million people globally. The funding will enable MuteButton to accelerate large scale clinical trials of its tinnitus treatment device and to secure ISO certification in advance of regulatory approval and device manufacturing. The company plans to launch its new device into the market during 2013.
MuteButton was established in 2010 by Dr Ross O’Neill, as a spin-out company from the Hamilton Institute, NUI Maynooth where the technology was originally developed by him with Dr Paul O’Grady and Professor Barak Pearlmutter.
The company has recently located to NovaUCD, the Innovation and Technology Transfer Centre, to develop collaborative partnerships with University College Dublin researchers in the treatment of neurological conditions. The company currently employs 4 people at NovaUCD but plans to increase staff numbers to 20 over the next two years as its device nears market release.
Tinnitus, which is not a disease or a syndrome, but a set of symptoms, is the perception of an illusory low-level sound in the absence of a corresponding external stimulus to the ear. It is commonly referred to as ‘ringing-in-the-ears’.
Temporary tinnitus, which can be caused by excess fluid or wax in the ear or short-term exposure to loud noises, can be cured. Permanent tinnitus, which is caused by intense or prolonged exposure to noise, and which is often associated with hearing loss, cannot be cured. Permanent tinnitus can have a negative effect on the quality of life of sufferers and can lead to insomnia and depression. In addition no effective treatment for this form of tinnitus is currently available on the market.
MuteButton has developed a non-invasive (Class IIA) device which treats the effects of permanent tinnitus. The device, the size of an ipod or iphone, presents sound to the ear using normal headphones and simultaneously presents this sound as tactile patterns on the tongue using an intra-oral array.
This provides the brain with a multimodal basis for sound which allows neurological mechanisms within the brain to suppress the ‘ringing-in-the-ears’ of the sufferer for a period of hours.
Dr Ross O’Neill, CEO, MuteButton said, “This investment by Enterprise Ireland marks a significant milestone for the company. It is another step towards the development of an effective treatment for a medical condition that is currently considered untreatable.” He added, “Enterprise Ireland has been fantastic throughout the project, supporting it from the proof-of-concept phase within Maynooth University, through the technology transfer process, and into commercialisation within the company. They have been instrumental in every step along the way”. He concluded, “This investment will enable the company to carry out large scale clinical trials of the MuteButton device later this year with our clinical collaborator Mr Brendan Conlon, Surgical Ear, Nose & Throat Specialist at St. James’s Hospital, Dublin.”
Dr Keith O’Neill, Director, Life Science and Food Commercialisation, Enterprise Ireland said, “Thanks to the ongoing commitment of Dr Ross O’Neill in bringing this technology to market, MuteButton now has the potential to make a real impact on the millions of people who suffer from tinnitus. MuteButton is a great example of what can be achieved through commercialisation of research from Irish universities and we were delighted to award Dr O’Neill Enterprise Ireland’s ‘One to Watch’ Award last year.”