Tinnitus research priorities established

After months of hard work, the James Lind Alliance (JLA) Tinnitus Priority Setting Partnership (PSP) has published the top ten research uncertainties for tinnitus agreed by patients and clinicians. It is hoped that these will be a catalyst for more tinnitus research and encourage funders and researchers to rise to the challenge of addressing the selected priorities.

The top ten research uncertainties chosen were:

  • What management strategies are more effective than a usual model of audiological care in improving outcomes for people with tinnitus?
  • Is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), delivered by audiology professionals, effective for people with tinnitus? Here comparisons might be with usual audiological care or CBT delivered by a psychologist.
  • What management strategies are more effective for improving tinnitus-related insomnia than a usual model of care?
  • Do any of the various available complementary therapies provide improved outcome for people with tinnitus compared with a usual model of care?
  • What type of digital hearing aid or amplification strategy provides the most effective tinnitus relief?
  • What is the optimal set of guidelines for assessing children with tinnitus?
  • How can tinnitus be effectively managed in people who are Deaf or who have a profound hearing loss?
  • Are there different types of tinnitus and can they be explained by different mechanisms in the ear or brain?
  • What is the link between tinnitus and hyperacusis (over-sensitivity to sounds)?
  • Which medications have proven to be effective in tinnitus management compared with placebo?

David Stockdale, Chief Executive of the British Tinnitus Association said, “I am delighted with the top ten research uncertainties that have been selected as they represent a clear focus for future research as well as really capturing the questions that are important for patients and clinicians alike.”

Working with the JLA, the process of choosing the uncertainties began in September 2011, with patients and clinicians submitting the questions that they would like to see researched. Over 2500 questions were subsequently posed. A pooling and filtering process then took place removing anything previously researched leaving 393 questions. This long list was refined to 170 by removing those questions selected by only one or two people. These were then distributed within the tinnitus community so that patients and clinicians could choose their top ten. A shortlist was produced from these responses and discussed at a meeting in London on 16 July 2012 where both patients and clinicians finally agreed on the top ten.

The James Lind Alliance (JLA) Tinnitus Priority Setting Partnership (PSP) was led by the British Tinnitus Association (BTA) and the NIHR Nottingham Hearing Biomedical Research Unit.

The tinnitus uncertainties will now appear on the UK Database of Uncertainties about the Effects of Treatments (UK DUETs). UK DUETs publishes treatment uncertainties from patients, carers, clinicians, and from research recommendations, covering a wide variety of health problems.

The top ten tinnitus treatments uncertainties will be launched at the British Society of Audiology (BSA) Conference on 5-7 September 2012. Deb Hall, Director of NIHR Nottingham Hearing Biomedical Research Unit, said: “The outcomes from this project provide a much needed boost to tinnitus research because they identify specific questions for scientists to address that will bring about real patient benefit”

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