Research Investment Reflects ATA Mission to Create a Brighter Future for People Living With Tinnitus
ATA Awards Inaugural People’s Grant and 2nd Year Funding for Kent Taylor Roadhouse Tinnitus Research Grant
The American Tinnitus Association Board of Directors is proud to announce funding of two grants as part of its 2023 Innovative Tinnitus Research Grants Program. The funding, totaling $179,332, underscores the ATA’s unwavering commitment to making a significant difference in the lives of those affected by tinnitus, a condition which is almost always incurable. By supporting innovative seed grant research, the ATA aims to contribute to the discovery of potential breakthroughs that advance scientific understanding of tinnitus and improve quality-of-life outcomes for people suffering from tinnitus.
This year’s grants include the People’s Grant and the Kent Taylor Texas Roadhouse Research Grant, which were respectively made possible by individual donations and Texas Roadhouse in 2022. ATA Board Chair Jinsheng Zhang, PhD, expressed the board’s enthusiasm, stating, “We understand the profound impact that tinnitus has on individuals and their family. The ATA is committed to providing support today and improving prospects for a future without tinnitus by funding research, which is made possible by individuals and corporations determined to silence tinnitus.”
The People’s Grant was awarded to Adam Lammert, PhD, for his project titled “Tinnitus Characterization Using Reverse Correlation With Applications to Habituation Therapies.” Dr. Lammert is an assistant professor for the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. His two-year award for $119,332 will investigate a novel method for characterizing tinnitus sounds.
Dr. Lammert noted that treatments for tinnitus often involve listening to sounds that resemble the sound of a patient’s tinnitus. “[However,] current methods for characterizing the sounds experienced by patients are limited,” he said, adding that ringing is easy to characterize while other sounds such as buzzing, roaring, and cricket sounds are not. Dr. Lammert stressed that an estimated 20 to 50 percent of tinnitus patients experience tinnitus sounds that cannot be characterized using existing methods, which means patients do not benefit from treatments the same way.
In the investigation, Dr. Lammert and his research team will apply reverse correlation, which has been used to characterize other aspects of visual or auditory experiences, to tinnitus. It is hypothesized that reverse correlation will allow for more comprehensive and accurate characterization of tinnitus sounds, which could enhance treatment results and improve quality-of-life outcomes for countless people bothered by tinnitus.
The other grant is the $60,000 second-year award for Julia Campbell, AuD, PhD, who received the inaugural Kent Taylor Texas Roadhouse Tinnitus Research Grant for $120,000 in 2022. Dr. Campbell is an assistant professor for the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Texas at Austin. Her team is investigating auditory gating and its role in tinnitus perception.
Auditory gating can be described as a function of the brain’s filter directing attention to important sounds and ignoring less important ones. Although auditory gating has been significantly associated with tinnitus severity in individuals with normal hearing and those with minimal tinnitus severity, it is unclear how gating operates in the presence of both tinnitus and hearing loss. Better understanding of how gating works with tinnitus may provide a clinical measure of tinnitus as well as a potential site for a pharmaceutical intervention.
“Thus far, we have conducted a preliminary study to determine how loud the gating sound should be presented to successfully elicit the gating response. This will allow us to ensure that the sound is sufficiently audible when hearing loss is present,” she said, adding that they have begun recruiting adults with hearing loss and tinnitus and adults with hearing loss without tinnitus. If you are interested in participating, please contact Dr. Campbell’s lab at CSPLab@utexas.edu.
The ATA wishes to thank individual donors and Texas Roadhouse for their generous contributions that enable the ATA to support promising research, which, when successful, can serve as the basis for researchers’ ability to apply for larger funding from bigger institutions, including the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. The ATA’s seed grants fill a critical niche and enable researchers to test novel ideas that may lead to breakthroughs that advance scientific understanding of tinnitus and improve patient treatment outcomes.
The ATA Board also thanks the Scientific Advisory Committee, a group of highly regarded tinnitus researchers, for their time and expertise, which ensures that high-quality applications are funded.