A throbbing hum, a low hiss, a high-pitched whine — for the tinnitus sufferer, these are just some of the sounds that can plague everyday life.
Hearing researchers at the National Institute for Health Research’s National Biomedical Research Unit in Nottingham (NBRUH) are now looking for volunteers with tinnitus who can help them greater understand — and treat — this debilitating condition.
Affecting about 10 per cent of people in the UK, tinnitus is most commonly described as a ringing or buzzing in the ears — something many of us will have experienced at some point. The experience is short-lived for most people, but those who have chronic tinnitus hear these sounds continuously for months and years. There is little consensus about the cause of the condition. Sometimes tinnitus can be traced back to a specific event (such as a rock concert or a stressful life event), but there are also many cases that cannot be directly associated with any particular trigger.
NBRUH is based at Ropewalk House in Nottingham city centre, and was established by the UK Department of Health through its National Institute for Health Research. It is based on a partnership between the Medical Research Council Institute of Hearing Research, The University of Nottingham and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.
Led by Professor Deb Hall, Tinnitus Programme Leader at NBRUH, two lines of tinnitus research are currently underway. Dr Phillip Gander will look at the relative success of the current treatment options used by audiologists. This project will explore how sound-based and counselling treatment approaches for managing tinnitus bring about benefits. This will involve evaluating a range of different treatment outcomes including changes in how the person describes the sound of their tinnitus, their feelings towards it and its impact on their day-to-day lives. Since there is no “one size fits all” treatment, this research will explore what factors determine good outcomes from a particular treatment. This research will involve questionnaires, computer-based listening tests, and scans of activity in different regions of the brain. These tests will involve three separate visits to NBRUH over a period of six months. “Many of us will experience tinnitus at some point in our lives, but for some it is a debilitating and constant condition,” said Dr Gander, who is co-ordinating this research. “We need the help of those living with tinnitus to increase our understanding of the condition. This will help us develop more effective, targeted treatments.”
Dr Derek Hoare will examine a new sound-based approach to managing tinnitus. The approach involves a form of ‘brain-training’ whereby the person with tinnitus uses a simple computer-based exercise to train their ability to tell the difference between very similar sounds. There are a number of links between this form of ‘brain-training’ and current theories of tinnitus, and some published scientific studies which found that training led to reductions in tinnitus severity. The project will look at who benefits most from this form of treatment, what are the best sounds to use, and how long the benefits last for. Participants will be able to do the training in their own homes over a number of weeks, and will also visit NBRUH for a number of assessments.
The NBRUH research team will hold a public information event on tinnitus and their research into the condition on Thursday December 3 at the Nottingham Mechanics Institute. Information will be available on the latest tinnitus treatments, current research and the benefits of joining self help groups. The event takes place from 4.30-6.00pm.
For more information and a ticket to the event, or to find out about taking part in tinnitus research, contact the Tinnitus Research Group at firstname.lastname@example.org, 0115 823 2600 or visit http://hearing.nihr.ac.uk
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We have an audio file available which replicates the different sounds that tinnitus sufferers may experience. If you’d like that file (5mg, MP3) get in touch with Tara at the details below.