Clinical trials are biomedical or behavioral research studies on human subjects, designed to answer targeted questions about a particular health topic. They are often used to study health conditions in vivo--within a functioning human patient. They are necessary to test the efficacy of medical and behavioral interventions for certain health conditions. Clinical trials on human subjects are typically a late-stage step in the research process, and are only allowed after meeting ethical and safety standards.
Clinical trials related to tinnitus may serve multiple functions, depending on the specific study or topic in question:
- To study the underlying biological mechanisms of tinnitus
- To explore correlating or causal factors behind the development of tinnitus
- To better understand the impact of tinnitus on a personal or population level
- To explore the safety and efficacy of different tinnitus interventions
Informed, volunteer patient participation in clinical trial studies is an important component in the research process. Tinnitus patients interested in volunteering for a clinical trial should remember two points:
Studies typically have specific participation criteria
Each study will have different prerequisites and qualifications for prospective participants. In general, researchers try to minimize the variability of their human subjects to prevent outside variables from influencing outcomes data.
Clinical trials are primarily for research, not treatment
Human trials are designed, first and foremost, to gather data to better inform subsequent medical research. Even in trials that are testing treatment tools for tinnitus, the main focus is to gather data to validate the treatment’s efficacy, not to treat the volunteer participants for the condition. (The tested tools themselves may not be effective, or the patient may receive a placebo version of the treatment.) While it is possible that a patient may find some tinnitus relief as a participant in a clinical trial, this is not a recommended, guaranteed, or even likely way to get receive treatment. Participating in a clinical trial, however, is an excellent way to help advance the science that may lead to further treatments and/or cures.
Finding a Clinical Trial
While there are many clinical trials listed on the internet (some of questionable merit), the best source to learn about and validate clinical trials is at clinicaltrials.gov, which is a service of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. There you can search for a study, learn about its purpose, eligibility criteria, locations, fiscal sponsors, and how to contact the researchers in charge. You may wish to refer to this page within the site for a list of trials organized by geographic location.