Advances in treating tinnitus
focus of UB conference
“As many as 50 percent of combat soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan who come back have tinnitus.”
UB research showing that a new drug that eliminated tinnitus with a single dose in animal models is among the advances that will be presented next week at the Fifth Tinnitus Research Initiative Conference, “The Neuroscience of Tinnitus,” sponsored by UB’s Center for Hearing and Deafness.
The conference, which will be held Aug. 19-21 on Grand Island, will explore new discoveries about the origins, diagnosis and treatment of tinnitus (the perception of sound without any acoustic stimulus), a disorder that affects 10-14 percent of Americans and is especially prevalent among Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. While various therapies can help some sufferers, there is no medically approved standard treatment and no cure.
Top tinnitus researchers and clinicians from the U.S., Europe, Canada and Asia will attend the conference, which is co-sponsored by the Tinnitus Research Initiative at the University of Regensburg, Germany.
“The best tinnitus investigators in the world will be here,” says Richard Salvi, chief conference organizer and head of UB’s Center for Hearing and Deafness, one of the world’s leading hearing research laboratories and Western New York’s only specialty clinic for tinnitus patients.
A documentary filmmaker, who is making a film on the disorder with the assistance of the American Tinnitus Association, will be at the conference interviewing some of these well-known researchers, Salvi adds.
Part of the increased attention to tinnitus, he says, is due to its growing incidence among war veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“As many as 50 percent of combat soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan who come back have tinnitus,” Salvi says. “In 2010, the Veterans Administration paid out more than $1 billion for tinnitus disability claims alone. It’s become a huge problem for military and VA hospitals.”
That’s because of the intense noise soldiers must withstand, Salvi explains, noting that this is why the U.S. Office of Naval Research is a major conference sponsor.
Topics to be covered at the conference include evaluating effective strategies for assessing tinnitus; various treatments, such as cochlear implants, electric acoustic stimulation and sound therapy; how light affects tinnitus; and the scientific advances on the physiological, neurochemical and biological mechanisms that cause tinnitus.
Edward Lobarinas, research assistant professor of communicative disorders and sciences, will present work he and UB colleagues have done showing that two potassium ion channel modulators, called Maxipost and R-Maxipost, completely eliminated behavioral evidence of tinnitus in animals with drug-induced tinnitus. Further research is needed to determine if these compounds suppress other forms of tinnitus.
UB researchers also will present work on how hearing loss early in life affects sound tolerance, how the amygdala in the brain may influence the generation of tinnitus and how the auditory cortex in the brain of animal models is affected by the disorder.
In addition to the Office of Naval Research, the conference is sponsored by the Department of Communicative Disorders and Sciences, UB College of Arts and Sciences, as well as the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Corporate and foundation sponsors include the Tinnitus Research Initiative, the American Tinnitus Association, Merz Pharmaceuticals, Auris Medical, Med-El Corp., General Hearing Instruments Inc., Widex International, Tucker-Davis Technologies and Sleep Pillow.