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First Research Of Its Kind In New Zealand

First Research Of Its Kind In New Zealand

The National Foundation for the Deaf has awarded a research grant to the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Otago School of Health Sciences to investigate the causes of the common condition tinnitus.

Tinnitus which is a chirping, crackling or ringing in the ears affects approximately 1% of the New Zealand population with the rate rising to 40% in people over the age of 60.

Two of New Zealand’s internationally reknown scientists, Professor Paul Smith and Associate Professor Cynthia Darlington, will head the two year research project.

Dr Darlington said the research which is the first of its kind in New Zealand, would involve identifying changes in neurotransmitter receptors, the activation sites for the brain’s chemical messengers, which undergo a change in people with tinnitus.

“There are a group of protein complexes known as GABA A receptors in the brain which appear to change when people have tinnitus. We will be looking at the GABA A receptors in the part of the brain that receives signals related to hearing from the inner ear.

“Once we’ve identified the specific proteins in the GABA A receptors that change during tinnitus, the next stage will be to develop drug treatments that will target those proteins,” said Dr Darlington.

Marianne Schumacher, executive manager of the National Foundation for the Deaf said they were delighted to have researchers of such caliber working on this important project.
“Drs Smith and Darlington have spent the past 20 years studying hearing and balance structures of the inner ear so are well placed to provide the expertise this research requires.

“It is so important to find the cause and develop the appropriate drug treatments to address this common problem. Tinnitus can range from almost unnoticeable ringing in one ear to extremely loud noises in both ears which is extremely distressing to the person concerned. 90% of people who have hearing loss experience tinnitus and it is no surprise that 50% of people with tinnitus suffer from depression,” said Ms Schumacher.

The $23,000 grant, was provided by a donation from the J R MacKenzie Trust to the National Foundation for the Deaf Trust.

The NFD Trust was created to invest legacies and donated funds on behalf of the NFD and it distributes funds annually for a range of activities to assist the deaf and hearing impaired community.

The NFD relies on the generosity of the public and the host of volunteers throughout the country to achieve its goals.

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