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      Paving the way for new tinnitus treatments

      This project could lead to the development of new ways to measure tinnitus, which will help in the development and testing of new drugs to treat it.

      This is a three-year project funded through our Translational Research Initiative for Hearing (TRIH). It is being led by Dr Mark Cunningham, at Newcastle University; the project began in March 2015 and will end in February 2018. Our TRIH grant scheme funds research projects in the early stages of turning research discoveries into potential new treatments for hearing loss and tinnitus.


      Tinnitus affects 1 in 10 of the UK population and can have a devastating effect on people’s lives. Despite this high need, there are no pharmaceutical drugs specifically approved to treat tinnitus and few companies are investing in this area.

      Two of the major challenges for researchers in developing new drugs to treat tinnitus are that:

      • There is currently no test for tinnitus that measures a biological change (a so-called objective test). Until now, tinnitus in humans has been measured through questionnaires. These are subjective and, therefore, give variable results in a clinical trial setting.
      • There is no test for tinnitus that can be used in both animal studies in the laboratory and in clinical studies in people. This means that the search for new tinnitus treatments is being slowed down because it is very hard to know if the effects seen in animal studies are relevant to human tinnitus.

      Overcoming these challenges would enable tinnitus researchers throughout the world to progress new tinnitus treatments from testing in the laboratory to testing in people – an essential step in the development of new medicines.

      This project aims to address these challenges by developing an objective measure of tinnitus that can be used in both animals and people. The work is being carried out by an academic/industry collaboration between researchers from two leading UK universities – Newcastle University and the University of Leicester – and a biotech company, Autifony Therapeutics. This is a unique opportunity for collaboration.

      Project aims

      This project will study the brain waves produced by regions of the brain involved in hearing. The researchers will look at which brain waves are altered in tinnitus, and identify brain wave ‘signatures’ that could be used as objective tests for tinnitus in both the clinic and laboratory studies. As part of the project the researchers will test the effect of an experimental drug, AUT00063.


      We hope that, in collaboration, the researchers will identify objective measures of tinnitus that can be used in both animals and people. This would be a significant step forward for the development of new tinnitus treatments: researchers will find it easier to progress potential new treatments from testing in the laboratory to testing in people. This would increase confidence in the pharmaceutical industry sector that tinnitus is a viable area for medicine development and encourage increased investment in this area. The development of an objective measure of tinnitus would increase the chances of successful clinical trials and help pave the way for the development of effective new treatments for the people who need them.

      Simon Marton

      Tinnitus is often described as 'ringing in the ears', but it's the name for hearing any sound in your ears or head when there's nothing outside your body that's making that sound.