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Research Grants Will Study Source of Rhythmic Tinnitus, Role of Brain Chemical in Hearing Condition

and Effectiveness of Electrical Stimulation to Reduce Ringing in Ears

Portland, Ore. Dec. 2004 The American Tinnitus Association (ATA) has awarded a total of $433,027 to three researchers for studies that may lead to new treatments for tinnitus, and eventually to cures for this hearing-related condition.

One program will study the relationship between electrical stimulation and possible noise reduction for those with tinnitus. The second study will seek to better understand the noise sources that cause a rhythmic form of tinnitus, called pulsatile tinnitus. The third will examine the relationship between a brain chemical called glycine and the perception of tinnitus.

Tinnitus affects approximately 50 million adults in the United States. Exposure to loud noise, either in a single event or progressively over time, causes the condition in many people. About 12 million people live with debilitating levels of tinnitus that leave them unable to work, concentrate or get restful sleep. The condition presently has no cure, though a variety of treatments are available through healthcare providers.

The three studies selected for grants came from a field of six applications. Grant requests are reviewed by the ATA Scientific Advisory Committee. Grants are awarded twice a year to innovative tinnitus research projects. Details are available on the ATA Web site. Findings from these studies will be published upon completion.

ATA Fall 2004 Grant Awards

Jinsheng Zhang, PhD -- Wayne State University School of Medicine A 3-Year Study

Can electrical stimulation quiet tinnitus? Thats what a three-year study at Wayne State University School of Medicine will try to answer. ATA granted Jinsheng Zhang, Ph.D., a total of $162,027 to examine the possible link between electrical stimulation and hyperactivity in an important structure of the central auditory system, called the dorsal cochlear nucleus. Zhangs team hopes to learn if electrical stimulation can provide an extended sense of quiet from tinnitus during and after the stimulation. This research may lead to the development of new therapies for tinnitus, based on the use of electrical stimulation.

Robert A. Levine, MD Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary A 1-Year Study
A special type of tinnitus occurs in synch with the heartbeat (called pulsatile tinnitus). In about 10 percent of cases, the cause of pulsatile tinnitus can be traced to abnormal blood flow near the inner ear. However, the cause of the remaining 90 percent of cases remains unclear. Using enhanced ear canal microphone recordings, Robert A. Levine, MD, of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, intends to develop more-sensitive methods for detecting whether or not there is a sound source in the body causing the pulsatile tinnitus. The success of this $75,000 study could reduce the expense and time required to pinpoint the cause of pulsatile tinnitus, and lead to a novel treatment that uses the same principle as noise-cancellation headphones.

Donald M. Caspary, PhD Southern Illinois University School of Medicine A 2-Year Study
Do changes in a specific brain chemical contribute to the development of tinnitus? Could selective drugs that target the brain receptor for this chemical relieve tinnitus? Donald M. Caspary, Ph.D. and colleagues at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine will pursue answers to these questions in a two-year study. ATA will provide $196,000 for Casparys research on the brain chemical glycine and its brain receptor. Casparys study should expand the scientific understanding of changes in brain chemistry systems, and could provide the next step toward development of selective drugs for treatment of tinnitus.

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a medical condition that causes people to hear ringing in the ears or noise in the head when no external source is present. Approximately one of every six Americans, or 50 million people, experience tinnitus. Roughly 12 million of those people seek help to manage extreme reactions, such as depression, loss of sleep and difficulty concentrating. Tinnitus can have a variety of causes, but exposure to loud noise is the most commonly reported trigger event. For many, the condition can be relieved by a variety of approaches. However, tinnitus currently has no cure.

About the American Tinnitus Association

The American Tinnitus Association is a national nonprofit charitable organization dedicated to advancing tinnitus research, and to helping tinnitus patients and the professionals who treat them. The ATA is headquartered in Portland, Ore. Its web site is located at www.ata.org.

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