To mark Tinnitus Awareness Week (2 - 8 February), UK charity Action on Hearing Loss (formerly RNID) has announced a major investment to fund a new study at Newcastle University, and involving the University of Leicester, which aims to accelerate the development of future tinnitus treatments.
Six million people in the UK are affected by tinnitus every day - ranging from a light buzzing to a constant roar in the ears and head - with 600,000 seriously affected by the condition, which can have a detrimental effect on quality of life including bouts of anxiety, difficulties socialising and problems sleeping or being able to concentrate at work.
The three year, £300,000 project will be led by Dr Mark Cunningham at Newcastle University and will involve researchers at the University of Leicester and the biotechnology company Autifony Therapeutics Ltd, who are currently conducting a clinical trial of a drug for tinnitus.
The pioneering research aims to bridge the gap between promising laboratory research discoveries and testing new medicines in tinnitus patients.
Dr Martine Hamann is Lecturer in Neurosciences at the University of Leicester Department of Cell Physiology and Pharmacology. She said: "At the University Leicester, we will be performing tinnitus screening using reliable paradigms and novel therapeutic treatments will then be tested at University of Newcastle."
Lead researcher, Dr Mark Cunningham said: "The focus of this project is to see if we can use electrical waves in one of the hearing centres of the brain to measure tinnitus both to discover if the therapy developed by Autifony is working and how it is having its effect. The use of an animal model of tinnitus will allow us to investigate brain wave activity in the hearing centres and develop a biological measure which can be used on patients in the clinic as well as future research."
Dr Ralph Holme, Head of Biomedical Research at charity Action on Hearing Loss, said: "Tinnitus is a debilitating condition for which there is no cure, but real progress is being made towards understanding the mechanisms behind the condition, giving us hope that effective treatments can be found. Currently the search for new treatments is being slowed down because it is very hard to know if the effects of potential new treatments seen in animal studies are relevant to tinnitus in humans. Our new project has the potential to overcome this barrier, speeding up the development of urgently needed treatments."
Action on Hearing Loss runs the world's largest donor-supported hearing research programme, dedicated to funding research into better treatments and cures for hearing loss and tinnitus.