Research underway to help tinnitus patients

Over his years in practice Dr. Timothy Kramer has observed the devastating effects acute tinnitus on patients.

A Kelowna ears, nose and throat specialist has taken on the role of clinical investigator for a study on acute tinnitus involving patients from Alberta and B.C.

Dr. Timothy Kramer, a practicing otolaryngologist in Kelowna for over 27 years, is at the helm of this latest study about tinnitus, which is a ringing in the ears.

It can last a lifetime or for weeks or months at a time due to a head injury,  exposure to sudden or very loud noise, such as an explosion or gunfire, a blow or slap to the head, or following an ear infection.

In addition to the persistent ringing, tinnitus may also take the form of a buzzing, hissing, pulsing, whistling, roaring, or various other sounds only heard by the affected individual in one or both ears.

Dr. Kramer is excited to participate in this study because over his years in practice he has observed the devastating effects acute tinnitus can have on patients.

“The study is providing an opportunity to treat these patients, where there has been no treatment before,” said Kramer.

“I have been encouraged by the earlier [phase II] study results and the science was sound, based on 10 years of previous work by a group in Switzerland.”

Tinnitus is often a consequence of damage that occurs inside the inner ear.

Sounds pass from the outer ear through the middle ear to the inner ear, which contains the cochlea and auditory nerve.

If part of the cochlea is damaged, leading to a malfunctioning of the hair cells, it will stop sending information along the auditory nerve to parts of the brain.

These areas of the brain will then actively ‘seek out’ signals from parts of the cochlea that still work, firing simultaneously instead of in a random pattern, causing an overload and leading to a ringing or buzzing in th e ear.

Kramer explains that this study is only for people who develop tinnitus in the last three months as a result of ear damage incident symptoms.

Kramer is collaborating with the Medical Arts Health Research Group to be one of only six centres in Canada invited to participate in this groundbreaking study.

“Although the treatment technique is not new, it has been used to treat Ménière’s disease, the application to acute tinnitus is new, and I’m pleased to be able to present this option to my patients,” said Kramer.

After patients are treated, they are followed carefully for three months and seven clinic visits. Because this is a randomized study, some patients (60 per cent) receive the study drug, while others (40 per cent) receive a placebo.

Because the study is ‘blinded,’ neither Kramer nor the patient knows whether they have received the drug or placebo. He describes his patients’ early experiences to be very positive.

In an effort to make this study more accessible to individuals with acute tinnitus who may wish to participate, Kramer has reached out to his otolaryngologist colleagues in the region to refer patients who report a recent tinnitus.

For more information on how to be screened for Kramer’s study,  call The Medical Arts Health Research Group at 1-888-490-4320 or visit the website HealthResearch.ca.