Re-examining the relationship between audiometric profile and tinnitus pitch

Chief investigator

Dr Magdalena Sereda
Dr Derek Hoare

Study team

Professor Deborah Hall
Mark Edmondson-Jones

Funder

NIHR Nottingham Hearing BRU programme

Study period

2012-2015

Current neurophysiological models of tinnitus predict different relationships between audiogram shape and tinnitus pitch. One view is that the dominant tinnitus pitch should lie close to the audiometric edge (the frequency where hearing changes from normal to impaired). Another view is that it should lie somewhere within the area of hearing loss. Characterising the relationship between hearing loss and tinnitus can therefore help to shed light on the possible underlying physiological mechanisms. Ultimately, this will be highly informative for tailoring effective interventions for individual people with tinnitus.

Our work assessed the stability and reliability of a computer-based procedure for estimating the dominant tinnitus pitch (Hoare et al., 2014). We are using this procedure as part of several different tests for assessing treatment outcome (e.g. Hoare et al., 2012). Our previous research (Sereda et al., 2011) indicated a general relationship between tinnitus pitch (the sound of tinnitus) and hearing loss and we made prediction to assess whether a subgroup of people with narrow tinnitus bandwidth (tonal tinnitus that sounds like a single tone), would show association between tinnitus pitch and audiometric edge (the last normal frequency, or level of pitch detected, before the hearing loss) . In a follow-up study, we assessed audiometric profile and tinnitus spectrum in this subgroup. However our findings do not confirm the association between tinnitus pitch and the edge of the hearing loss (Sereda et al., 2015).