How patients can help future research into a distressing hearing condition

20 Oct 2017 15:02:17.100

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Researchers are calling for people who are hyper-sensitive to noise to help them decide the future of research into this little-known hearing condition.

Hyperacusis is a hearing disorder that seriously affects the lives of thousands of people who experience it. Around 8% of adults and 4% of children are diagnosed with it. It can have a serious effect on their quality of life – hindering education, working life and normal social and family interaction. 

This unpleasant auditory condition involves a greatly increased sensitivity of the ears to sound and means that everyday noise can painful and overwhelming to people affected by it. Despite its prevalence, and ongoing research, little is known about what causes it and how it can be treated.

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Now hearing experts at the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre have launched an online survey to garner the experiences and opinions of people with hyperacusis to help guide future research into the condition. The venture is a partnership with the James Lind Alliance Priority Setting Partnership with funding from the British Society of Audiology and Action on Hearing Loss. 

Anyone with experience of hyperacusis can complete the survey, including carers, family, teachers, members of the public and health professionals who work with and support those who experience hyperacusis. 

Leading the project, Dr Kathryn Fackrell, said: “There is a growing interest in conducting hyperacusis research and whilst this is good news, we do need to ensure that the direction this research takes is relevant and matters to those who really understand the issues and experiences surrounding hyperacusis. 

“We want to make sure every voice is heard and that what matters most is turned into priority questions that will have a real and lasting impact on future research in hyperacusis. The Nottingham BRC will ensure the priority questions identifed through this process are promoted and shared with funders and commissioners of research to ensure that future research in hyperacusis will make a real difference for adults and children living with hyperacusis.” 

Linda Stratmann, founder and co-moderator of Hyperacusis Support & Research Facebook group, said: “This Priority Setting Partnership on hyperacusis is important because the condition, for which there is still no effective treatment, is one that affects every area of life, restricting ability to pursue education, find employment and take part in social activities. There is so little public awareness that families and friends of people with hyperacusis often find it difficult to understand and offer the support essential to provide as normal a life experience as possible. Enabling people with hyperacusis to provide clinicians with an insight into living with its restrictions is a step forward in adding to our knowledge.” 

Ralph Holmes, Director of Research at Action on Hearing Loss said: “Hyperacusis is a neglected condition – as a result, we don’t know much about it, or about what works in treating it. This Priority Setting Partnership on hyperacusis is therefore very important in gaining insight into what matters to people affected by it, and the clinicians who treat them. These insights are invaluable in ensuring that the research community focusses on the things that really matter, and we’d encourage anyone affected by hyperacusis to take part and ensure their voice is heard.” 

More information on the research priority setting work is available here, including a link to take part in the survey. The survey will be open for submissions until Friday 5thJanuary 2018.

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The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage, consistently ranked among the world's top 100. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our 44,000 students - Nottingham was named University of the Year for Graduate Employment in the 2017 Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, was awarded gold in the TEF 2017 and features in the top 20 of all three major UK rankings. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally.

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The NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) was established in April 2017 to improve the health of millions of people by translating world-leading research into breakthrough treatments, innovative technologies and new medicines. It is carrying out research into six areas of health:

•  hearing

•  gastrointestinal and liver diseases

•  musculoskeletal (muscle and joint-related) disease

•  mental health and technology

•  respiratory (lung) disease

•  Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) which supports all areas of research

The Nottingham BRC is a partnership between Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and the University of Nottingham, supported by Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. It is funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) – the research arm of the NHS. It is one of only 20 centres around the country set up to translate research into life-saving treatments for the future.

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More information is available from Dr Kathryn Fackrell in the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre, University of Nottingham on +44 (0)115 823 2642 or email 

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