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Ground-breaking tinnitus test

Ground-breaking tinnitus test paves the way to new treatments: A ground-breaking diagnostic test under development at the Bionics Institute in Melbourne could pave the way to new treatments for Australians suffering the auditory torment of tinnitus.

Tinnitus, the perception of sounds without an external source, affects 1 in 10 people globally. 20% of those affected report severe tinnitus, and there is currently no treatment – only ways to control symptoms, that don’t always work. Lead researcher Dr Mehrnaz Shoushtarian says the lack of treatment for tinnitus isn’t helped by the fact that there is currently no objective test to diagnose tinnitus or measure the severity.

“We have developed a test that can distinguish between mild and severe tinnitus with 87% accuracy using light technology to read brain activity that is analysed using artificial intelligence,” she said. “Our aim is to provide clinicians with a reliable diagnostic test to assess if a treatment is working, and also give researchers the information about brain activity in tinnitus needed to develop new treatments,”
she concluded.

New treatments could end the torment of tinnitus for people like Deb, a qualified midwife from Geelong.

Deb says: “It’s like a gas leak in my head with multiple layers of hissing around the clock, every day.

“I can’t sleep. I can’t watch TV. I can’t concentrate enough to read or write. It’s kicked up my depression and anxiety.”

Deb has tried white noise, masking, psychology, hearing aids and natural remedies. Nothing has worked.

“It has ruined my life and the lives of people like me who have severe tinnitus. Every day is about coping, not living.

“An objective test will give researchers the knowledge they need to find a treatment and change the lives of people like me living with severe tinnitus,” she concluded.

Bionics Institute CEO Robert Klupacs says the test is an excellent example of bioengineering innovation at its best.

He explained: “Dr Shoushtarian’s team uses a technology called functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), a non-invasive brain imaging technique that measures blood oxygen changes in the brain.

“Her team has shown that we can diagnose tinnitus with incredible accuracy in a small clinical study. We are now seeking funding to develop a portable version with easy-to-use software that can be trialed for use in clinics in Australia and around the world.”

About the Bionics Institute
The Bionics Institute is an internationally recognised, independent medical research institute that solves medical challenges with technology. We lead the world in the research and development of innovative medical devices and therapies to transform the lives of people with hearing and vision impairment, autoimmune and chronic conditions, and conditions affecting the brain. For more information, go to: www.bionicsinstitute.org

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