For many sufferers of chronic tinnitus, the annoying ringing in the ear leads to significant long-term reduction in their quality of life. The precise symptoms vary greatly, and, at present, there is no single cure. Meanwhile, the number of patients is rising steadily, and could double by 2050 if current trends continue.
There is an urgent need to encourage research on tinnitus, and to promote interdisciplinary work developing new concepts and sharing data. As part of its research and development program, “Horizon 2020,” the European Union (EU) is making 3.8 million euros available for the European School for Interdisciplinary Tinnitus Research (ESIT)—an education program funded by the EU in order to promote tinnitus research in Europe—in order to gather data on a systematic interdisciplinary basis, to research new treatment methods, and to train 15 young scientists for work in the field, ESIT announced.
According to ESIT, innovative research methods are to be employed; the first genetic studies of tinnitus will be carried out; and the largest pan-European tinnitus database will be developed. The aim is to lay the foundation for an individualized and evidence-based treatment of tinnitus.
The ESIT program is set to run for four years, and will be coordinated by the tinnitus center at the Regensburg University Hospital. In all, 12 universities from 10 EU member states and 34 other academic and non-academic partners will be participating in the project. It is the close cooperation of academic, clinical, and industrial partners, and the involvement of patient organizations and health authorities that makes the program so unique, said ESIT.
Winfried Schlee, who coordinates the ESIT, said: “The ESIT makes it possible, for the first time ever, to create a common foundation and a universally agreed framework for the future in what has so far been a badly fragmented research landscape. Tinnitus research requires a close cooperation of all disciplines, in order to find innovative individual solutions for a highly diverse disorder profile. I am delighted that with the support of the EU and an excellent array of partner institutions we have made a significant step towards realizing our goals.” Among the industrial partners are experts and technological leaders whose solutions are already being used in tinnitus research and treatment. These include the BEE Group, Brain Products, Cochlear, Del Bo Technologia, Medien LB, Pinpoint Scotland, Sensorian, Sivantos, and Sonormed.
“The ESIT gives us the unique opportunity to bring all the key players together in a single project which will set the course for the tinnitus research and treatment of the future. We are very pleased to be a part of this,” said Jörg Land, founder and director of Sonormed GmbH.
Professor Deborah Hall, deputy director of the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre, University of Nottingham (NHBRU), stands up for high standards in the academic education of the 15 PhD students in ESIT. She explained: “ESIT will be the first ever coordinated academic training program for early-career researchers seeking to pursue a career in this growing field. The ESIT training is inspiring because it focuses on the personal qualities, knowledge, and skills to work with others and ensure the wider impact of research, as well as encompassing the more traditional elements of knowledge-based skills and professional standards training. ESIT training promotes closer international interaction because it provides all participants with study opportunities in other organizations and in other EU countries. These are truly exciting times for tinnitus research.”
The ESIT partners cover the clinical fields of audiology, otolaryngology, psychology, psychiatry, and neurology. Researchers from the following fields are also involved: epidemiology, genetics, neuroscience, biomedical engineering, software development, and data mining. In the first instance, all the fields will conduct coordinated research and development, taking as their starting point the tinnitus treatment strategies which are currently best documented: cognitive behavior therapy, acoustic stimulation, and electrical or magnetic neurostimulation.
With the final approval of EU funds, the ESIT program officially begins in April 2017, and will be financed for a period of four years. The first job offers are already published and interested students are invited to apply within the next few weeks. Details of the program and updates on its progress will be released online over a central internet presence which can be found under http://esit.tinnitusresearch.net.