Meet Brian Fargo, a successful video game developer who – when he developed tinnitus – tried every imaginable treatment to get rid of it, to no avail. Frustrated at the lack of effective treatment options, he decided to put his money where his mouth is.

He funded the research of Dr. Hamid Djalilian from UC Irvine, who is testing electrical stimulation of the inner ear to alleviate tinnitus. His results so far seem very promising, with some patients even getting rid of their tinnitus completely.

This episode is all about one man’s journey to come to terms with his tinnitus and help others by providing much needed research funding.

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Skip to: 00:00 Brian Fargo’s background and getting tinnitus.

I’ve always run my own companies and, you know, as an entrepreneur there was always a way around every obstacle. You could fix everything somehow. And this is probably the first time in my life I hit something, and I just can’t make it go away.

Skip to: 05:01 Dr. Djalilian’s professional background and interest in tinnitus.

Skip to: 15:02 What treatments Brian tried.

Skip to: 27:53 Dr. Djalilian’s work with inner ear stimulation.

So, then we tried the ear, the outer ear, the front of the ear, the ear canal and then finally we tried the ear drum itself and still, while we were able to get the tinnitus to quiet down in a very small fraction of people, it wasn’t enough that we would say this is really doing something.

Skip to: 41:20 Challenges ahead.

Skip to: 45:43 What makes this device unique?

I want to be able to make the tinnitus go away completely, and this is the only way we’ve been able to make it go away completely, at least temporarily.

Skip to: 48:12 Getting the device to market.

Skip to: 50:47 Tinnitus awareness in the medical community.

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Comments (26)
  1. I have all the usual causes, loud machines, rock concerts, age, etc. The tinnitus started in my 50s, now 63. Prevalent in right ear. This happened: my wife’s phone made a staticy sound and my tinnitus turned off in R ear and on in L for about a minute. It was a glorious minute but it switched back. Could that sound be a trigger?

    • I have a hand tool which is called a “multi-tool”. It is basically a tool which vibrates a variety of “blades” really fast and is used for cutting plastic etc. It makes a low frequency buzzing noise. If I turn this on for a minute it turns down my tinnitus as soon as I turn it off. This can last for 2 minutes or much longer before it creeps back. The longer I expose to the noise, the longer it stays away. It doesn’t impact my hearing in any way. My tinnitus has been measured at 9 kHz.

  2. I’ve tried everything myself and there are some neuromodulation things on YouTube that turn mine into static. Not permanent but a relief for a period.

  3. Whereas a cochlear implant frequently cures tinnitus, I didn’t have tinnitus until I had an implant. I would be interested to know if this is unusual.

    • Hahaha, I know. When people say ”you know” too often when they speak I eventually can’t concentrate on what they’re saying – my mind just keeps waiting for the next ”you know”. 😀

  4. I have bilateral tinnitus severe since 7 years. I hope there will be more people like Brian Fargo in the future. We all have the hope of a cure as soon as possible. Meanwhile I want to thank Brian and all the people who is working through this problem.

  5. Really appreciate Brian’s donation! The research they are doing sounds very promising, and it sounds like they are on the right track. Let’s hope that if they do come up with a good solution, that it will be affordable for most people. I would love to get my tinnitus under control!

  6. As I was in the entertainment business for a long time – stage performance from rock stars to stage plays and such – with the metal bands and the loud rock and rollers – loud amps that rang the ears for days – these guys in the 60s, 70s and 80s did not wear ear protection – we are all paying the price for that now – a few like TN – some call him uncle Ted but his issue from what he stated is in one ear – Huey Lewis came to the end of his career – both ears stopped voice sounds – was off key – he stated he tried a lot to stop it – from my issue I am being told it’s in the brain area as an audio noise form inner ear – it also gave me vertigo, a double whammy.

    • Huey Lewis’s story made me think if someone with ways and means to go & try everything & still end up completely deaf, what chance do I have. I think tinnitus is in the brain. But to get hearing back in that ear would be a plus for sure. Thank you for trying.

      My husband wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for Dr. Brian Druker who discovered a chemo pill Gleevec that puts chronic leukemia in remission. Surely if drugs can overcome certain cancers there’s an answer to tinnitus.

      I couldn’t be in trials on shots into the eardrum OTO-313 which did stop tinnitus for people because I was diagnosed with Meniere’s last year and have had tinnitus for years.

  7. There are many potential causes of tinnitus. Suggest a trial of the anti-inflammatory autoimmune diet (AIP). It involves eliminating all processed foods, dairy products, all grains, legumes and nightshade vegetables. This has helped some people with tinnitus if the problem is inflammation. Also, see Dr. Hauser’s YouTube videos on prolotherapy for upper cervical instability. My chiropractor decreased my tinnitus volume with massage of my tight trapezius muscles.

    • That is very interesting @Irene. I just had MRI on cervical neck & was found not to be bad enough for manipulation. Probably a blessing in disguise because I have carotid artery’s plaque but I will ask about shoulder!

    • It’s very interesting but will we ever get to hear any more about it… How can we be kept informed? I am desperate for help, it drives me crazy, I think about my tinnitus every waking moment. I have tried so many techniques to habituate. Mine is a sensation as well as a noise vibrating in my head like a drill… agggggggģhhhhh.

  8. Caffeine causes tinnitus in me. I noticed it when I was drinking black tea, then I tested coffee, then pure ccffeine tablets. It also affects my vision.

  9. I’m almost positive weather has something to do with my chronic tinnitus.

    Has anyone looked into that?

    The last few years I suffered with migraines (over 50 years) which I don’t get any more but in the end my pharmacist said I was a ‘weather head’ and the correlation was familiar to him.

    I wonder if tinnitus is similar. Thank you.

  10. Finally it seems a device will be available for curing tinnitus. This is due to the philanthropy of people like Brian Fargo and others and dedication of Dr. Hamid. I have had tinnitus for two years now after recovering from COVID-19 in July 2020. I tried using hearing aids but they did not help.

  11. I have had tinnitus for 40 years. I believe mine was caused by taking cortisone for allergic reaction to poison oak. I am using neuromodulation program at Tinnitus Talk and also sound programs at YouTube. There have been a few minutes at a time when I actually have silence afterwards.

  12. Good to listen to this valuable information. I’ve had tinnitus since November 2019. It started with one noise in my right ear. Now it is in both ears and is getting worse. I have multiple sounds, about 6. I hope the cure comes soon.

  13. Hope is everything! And after hearing this interview I have even more hope!

    Thanks for the great podcast you produce Hazel, and thanks to the doctor for his efforts and thanks to Brian for his donation for the research.

  14. Been playing – and funding by way of that 😛 – Brian’s games since day one. I didn’t know he had tinnitus. This is awesome news all around. Thanks Bri! I think within the next 5 years we’re going to see a lot of treatment options for tinnitus on the market. Big Pharma realizes this is a big market and there’s a ton of money to be made. Good management, if not a cure(s) is coming, and sooner than later. Can… not… wait.

  15. Very positive show, great to hear that Brian has invested. The thing that puzzles me is that if I drink a generous amount of Alcohol, mine vanishes for the evening, the next day and sometimes even the day after that. I’ve read about alcohol increasing GABA booster and that it’s also a vasodilator. I feel that for people like me, this must be a important key to finding a treatment.

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