The neurophysiological underpinnings of auditory and cognitive treatments for tinnitus

Chief investigator

Professor Deborah Hall

Study team

Dr Phillip Gander
Dr Jeff Davies

Funder

NIHR Nottingham Hearing BRU programme

Study period

2009 – 2012. This project is in the analysis and writing-up phase

Hearing aids are the most common audiological intervention that if offered to people with tinnitus. This is primarily because people often experience a hearing loss and the amplification of external sounds may help to mask the tinnitus sound. Despite the widespread prescription of hearing aids for tinnitus there is no quality research on their effectiveness (click here for a link to a recent Cochrane review ). This project addresses the effectiveness of hearing aids for tinnitus in new hearing-aid wearers. We hope that these results will help us understand the mechanisms related to people's experience of tinnitus and how a hearing aid might help to alleviate the tinnitus symptoms.

Our primary question is whether hearing aid usage affects self reported tinnitus distress. We are also asking the question about whether these reported benefits bring about changes in the way the brain processes information, or in the way people react to listening to sounds. This we are measuring using sophisticated brain imaging techniques.

Our secondary question is whether there are any factors that might predict the individual benefits of hearing aids for tinnitus. This will help us to target treatments for tinnitus in the future. There are many different factors that potentially contribute to a person's experience of tinnitus and so we have collected information on what a person's tinnitus sounds like, aspects of health and personality, as well as patterns of brain activity.

The study has now recruited all participants and we are at the stage of data analysis and reporting.

We have recently published our first neuroimaging study which investigates differences in brain activity patterns between hearing aid users with and without tinnitus (available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24200464). We are now reviewing the questionnaire data to evaluate the use of hearing aids as an effective tinnitus management strategy.   Results of which will be reported at this year's Intermational Tinnitus Seminar held in Berlin, May 2014.