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Research School for TINnitus Assessment, Causes and Treatments

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - TIN-ACT (Research School for TINnitus Assessment, Causes and Treatments)

Reporting period: 2017-11-01 to 2019-10-31

TIN-ACT is a European consortium that investigates tinnitus (“ringing in the ears”). Tinnitus is a very common and potentially devastating condition. People with tinnitus continuously hear a penetrating phantom sound in absence of actual sound. An estimated 50.8 million EU citizens hear tinnitus, of which 5.1 million are severely bothered by it. Tinnitus can be enormously debilitating and leads to difficulty concentrating, lack of sleep, anxiety, and depression. Even mild forms of tinnitus reduce productivity due to difficulty hearing and concentrating at work and also resting and relaxing during leisure time. The individual cost of tinnitus is between €2000 and €6200 per year (depending on the severity of the tinnitus) and totals more than €140 billion per year in the European Union alone. Currently, the exact mechanisms that trigger tinnitus are not clear. What we do know is that hearing loss is the most common risk factor for developing tinnitus. Recent work suggests that certain types of hearing loss may go undetected by the currently available audiological measures and this calls for improved methods to detect hearing loss and to quantify tinnitus. With the increasing noise we are exposed to in our daily lives combined with the increasing life span in modern society, both the prevalence of hearing loss and tinnitus are likely to rise substantially in the future. Current treatment methods of tinnitus are limited to the management of the symptoms such as anxiety, sleep problems and hearing loss, rather than treatment of the tinnitus directly. In order to cure tinnitus, we need to bridge the gap between basic fundamental research, applied clinical research and product development.

The aim of the TIN-AT network is to understand the basic neural mechanisms of tinnitus, to improve the methods to measure tinnitus and ultimately aid the treatment tinnitus. The TIN-ACT network unites world-leading academic groups, research-intensive industrial partners, patient organizations and excellent young researchers. The goal of the network is to provide a robust multidisciplinary research and training oriented environment that is necessary to overcome the roadblocks that have prevented the development of tinnitus treatments.
Advanced training courses were provided to the ESRs to provide them with excellent training opportunities. The ESRs have completed the advanced training courses (WP1) that consisted of Skills modules, Scientific modules and Stakeholder modules. The Skills modules consisted of (1) ‘Project and time management for fellows’ and ‘research ethics’, (2) ‘Scientific communication and outreach’, (3) ‘Project and time management II’ and ‘research ethics II’, (4) ‘Business start-up I and scientific communication and outreach II’, (5) ‘Business start-up II and grant writing’, (6) ‘Grant writing II and career planning for fellows II’. The provided Scientific modules were (1) ‘Auditory system, physiology and pathology’, (2) ‘Tinnitus – diagnostics, mechanisms and therapies’, (3) ‘Auditory system investigation: structure and function’. The stake holder modules contained (1) ‘Tinnitus from the patient perspective’, (2), ‘Tinnitus from the patient perspective II’. In addition to the scheduled training, visit to clinical and research sites were organized in Marseille, Erlangen, Berlin and Nottingham so far.

To summarize, the management and training aspects of TIN-ACT have been satisfactorily implemented. The research that is currently carried out by the ESRs is yielding promising preliminary results. Several ESRs have already presented their work at international conferences and thus sharing the knowledge they have obtained in a multidisciplinary setting.
The expected impact of TIN-ACT will extend beyond the academic world and help patients and society by improving the understanding of tinnitus biology, the development of novel diagnostic and treatment strategies, and by raising awareness on the importance of tinnitus research through dissemination and outreach activities. Both the ESRs and the Principal Investigators of TIN-ACT are reaching out to the public by taking the opportunity to present their projects in the local or national media, at patient organization meetings and general science fairs.
ESRs present during Berlin workshop
Group photo ESRs, PI's and partners
Group photo PI's and partners kick-off meeting Groningen