Tinnitus and hyperacusis

Tinnitus is the sensation of hearing sounds in the ears or head such as ringing, buzzing, hissing, or other sound that has no external source. That is to say, the sensation is produced by spontaneous nerve cell activity in the ear or brain. The noise can be intermittent or continuous, and can vary in loudness. There are over five million people in the UK with tinnitus and it affects about 14 percent of people aged over 50. These are truly startling statistics. The mechanisms of tinnitus are poorly understood but there are many different management options including education, cognitive behaviour therapy, sound therapies, management of hearing loss, and self-management options. Not all approaches to tinnitus management have been investigated thoroughly.

Hyperacusis is the perception of everyday environmental sound as being overwhelmingly loud or intense. Other terms used to describe the condition include reduced, decreased, or collapsed sound tolerance. Hyperacusis differs from phonophobia which is a temporary sound intolerance such as is experienced by some people during migraine. Hyperacusis is also different from misophonia, which is an acquired aversive reaction to specific sounds such as those generated by people eating or breathing. Hyperacusis affects about one in 10 people at some time and about two percent of the population have had it formally diagnosed.  Like tinnitus, the causes of hyperacusis are not well understood and various treatments are proposed including cognitive behaviour and different sound therapies.

The aim of our group is to create reliable knowledge and know-how that can support evidence-based clinical practice for people with tinnitus and/or hyperacusis, working closely with patients and clinicians to answer questions that are most important to them. We develop or work to improve audiological, psychological, and self-management interventions for tinnitus and hyperacusis, particularly interventions that the clinical profession consider likely to be of benefit to patients. We then conduct carefully designed clinical trials to evaluate those interventions. To support our clinical trials we also develop and test new tools such as clinical questionnaires which are essential to evaluating the effectiveness of interventions for tinnitus and hyperacusis.

Projects we are working on right now include: