February 9, 2016, by Emma Thorne

Tinnitus Awareness Week: Nottingham’s research into this chronic hearing condition

To mark Tinnitus Awareness Week Professor Deborah Hall, Director of the National Institute for Health Research Nottingham Hearing Biomedical Research Unit, discusses the international research which she and her team are undertaking into this chronic hearing condition.

This year is the tenth anniversary of Tinnitus Awareness Week, which is taking place from 8-14 February 2016. Tinnitus is the perception of sound, often referred to as ‘ringing in the ears’, which does not come from any external source, and is one of the most common chronic hearing-related conditions in the western world. There are more than five million people in the UK with tinnitus and the condition affects about 14 percent of people aged over 50. The mechanisms of tinnitus are poorly understood but there are many different management options. However, there is little high-quality evidence for their effectiveness in routine clinical practice. We hope to change that with our work.

In partnership with the University of Nottingham, Medical Research Council Institute of Hearing Research and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, we are taking a patient-focussed approach to our research, supported by the UK’s largest tinnitus charity, the British Tinnitus Association.

In 2010, we were involved in the James Lind Alliance Tinnitus Priority Setting Partnership with the British Tinnitus Association. This project involved clinicians, people with tinnitus and their families and carers setting the agenda for tinnitus research in the UK by selecting 10 priority research questions. We are now making progress on a number of these priorities. These include addressing which medications are effective in tinnitus, with a world-first clinical trial of an oral drug for tinnitus; optimising the assessment of children with tinnitus and exploring the effectiveness of audiologist-delivered counselling for tinnitus. We are also hosting the British Tinnitus Association’s first ‘Head of Research’, Dr Magdalena Sereda, to establish a new programme of research on the effectiveness of hearing aids for tinnitus, addressing further priority questions.

In recognition of our reputation in tinnitus research, we are hosting the 10th International Tinnitus Research Initiative conference, joint with the 1st EU COST Action conference from 16-18 March 2016 at the East Midlands Conference Centre. Around 250 international experts are expected to attend. The COST Action is an EU-funded network focussing on better understanding, diagnosing and treating tinnitus.

The conference provides an important forum for experts from clinical, academic, commercial and charity sectors to share knowledge and ideas that will ultimately help to improve the way in which tinnitus is diagnosed and managed.

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