15 Mar 2022

New funding will accelerate their programme improving quality of life for tinnitus sufferers.

Tinnitus is hearing noises – often a ringing or buzzing – that are not caused by an outside source. The British Tinnitus Association estimates 13.2% of the UK population (1 in 8 people) live with its distracting and distressing effects.

For a chronic condition that impairs the quality of so many lives, tinnitus has not received the attention it deserves. But Oto has set out to change that, with an ingenious app that helps people afflicted by tinnitus find real and lasting relief.

Driven to tackle neglected health conditions

Oto is an impact-driven business with a mission to tackle the world’s most overlooked healthcare conditions and create definitive solutions. Its founders, Dr Edmund Farrar and Dr George Leidig, both developed tinnitus in their mid-twenties but found little help was available. Drawing on their medical experience from the NHS and the military, their response was the Oto app, which they launched in January 2021.

Oto is a mobile app that helps sufferers habituate – taking control of their tinnitus using the latest clinically proven techniques, to reach the point where they no longer notice it. Oto uses a combination of CBT, mindfulness, physical exercise and relaxation to improve rest, sleep, social activities and concentration, and gradually fade tinnitus into the background, until the individual is barely aware of it and may sometimes not experience it at all.

How Oto transformed Arthur’s life

Arthur’s story is typical of those dogged by tinnitus. It certainly had an adverse effect on his work as a musician, but like many others, it was also detrimental to his social life and mental wellbeing.

In his own words, “I had sudden onset of tinnitus about 8 months ago after a practice session. I tried a few different things but the only one that has reduced the loudness is by undergoing CBT and breathing exercises through the Oto app. I couldn’t go to my parents’ house as it was too quiet and so my tinnitus would be uncomfortably loud. Now I can happily say I can go and spend time there and the tinnitus doesn’t bother me. I forget I have it now most of the time.”

An approach that can work for anyone

There are several potential causes of tinnitus, including hearing loss, Ménière’s disease, diabetes, depression and taking certain medicines. A new contender is possibly COVID-19, and this is now the subject of studies by John Hopkins University.

The great strength of the Oto app is that the cause of an individual’s tinnitus is largely irrelevant; Oto can benefit virtually all sufferers. Now, through its pre-seed funding advised by Taylor Vinters, it can expand to reach more users globally, accelerate clinical validation and drive product development further onwards – including finding treatments for other chronic disorders.

Oto and Taylor Vinters – committed to positive impacts

Oto was especially drawn to Taylor Vinters because of our experience with impact ventures. As well as this expertise, we also bring our enthusiasm for Impact Ventures that create positive outcomes and help shape a better world. We work with many university spin-outs, start-ups and emerging companies in digital health, life sciences, technology and other innovators across many sectors.

Advising on the funding round

Taylor Vinters guided Oto through their recent £410k funding round plus a £100K credit-linked conversion. The pre-seed round saw the participation of Acequia Capital, West Midlands Academic Health Science Network SME Innovation Fund, CalmStorm Ventures, Bethnal Green Ventures and notable angel investors such as Simon Franks, Errol Damelin, Alex Stephany, Matt Robinson and Ian Hogarth.

Oto has also been selected to join Silicon Valley’s exclusive and prestigious Y Combinator accelerator. This makes Oto one of just 15 UK healthtech start-ups to join Y Combinator since it started accepting companies in 2005.

Y Combinator provides seed funding and mentoring for promising start-ups. It has supported some of the world’s most successful tech disruptors including, Airbnb, Dropbox and Reddit.

Working with the best

Oto co-founder Dr Edmund Farrar said, “Tinnitus can be debilitating and so as a team, we’re looking forward to learning from the very best innovators and entrepreneurs as we explore new ways to accelerate our growth and make a difference in the lives of as many people living with tinnitus as possible.”

Taylor Vinters is excited to have helped Oto in its battle to help people with tinnitus cope with its effects and learn how to minimise them, so they can live normal lives.