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New Treatment For Tinnitus Sufferers

New Treatment Options For 18% Of New Zealanders Suffering From Tinnitus

New breakthroughs in tinnitus treatment presented by international audiological experts this week will provide welcome relief for the estimated 700,000 New Zealanders suffering from the condition. The visiting experts are guest speakers at the New Zealand Audiological Society's (NZAS) annual conference that starts in Wellington on Wednesday.

Tinnitus is the name given to sounds people can hear in their head that have no external sound source. Commonly experienced as ringing, chirping or buzzing, tinnitus affects most people at some stage in their life, with 18 percent of the population having the condition constantly, and 2-5 percent suffering from chronic symptoms.

US-based tinnitus expert Dr Pawel Jastreboff will outline recent developments with Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT), a treatment that gradually adjusts tinnitus sufferers to the tinnitus sound. Worldwide research and clinical tests suggest that TRT provides improvement in around 80 percent of cases.

TRT aims to help patients 'tune out' the sound of their tinnitus through counselling and the use of low-level neutral sounds to distract people from their tinnitus sound, in the same way that people adjust to sounds that are in their environment everyday such as the sound of refrigerator motors.

In addition to speaking at the conference, Dr Jastreboff will run two special TRT workshops while he is in this country.

"Tinnitus sufferers have often been told there is nothing that can be done for the condition, however there is an increasing number of treatment options that are available," said NZAS President Dr Andrea Kelly.

"This year's conference aims to ensure New Zealand audiologists are aware of the latest developments in solutions for people suffering from this debilitating and often highly distressing condition. The conference sessions will provide valuable information about tinnitus management while the TRT workshops will increase the number of audiologists that are trained to offer this treatment in New Zealand."

Other leading tinnitus experts speaking at the conference include Dr Paul Davis of Western Australia's Curtin University of Technology and Grant Searchfield from The University of Auckland.

Dr Davis, who is also Chief Scientific Officer at Neuromonics, will speak about recent advances in tinnitus assessment and counselling to assist audiologists to provide more effective support for people with tinnitus. Dr Davis will also speak about a new treatment that he has developed through extensive clinical trials and which is now available in Australia.

Mr Searchfield will present papers on research the University of Auckland has done into the effectiveness of hearing aids in tinnitus management.

"The conference will provide an opportunity for audiologists to upskill in treatments that are currently available as well as learning about those that will be available in the future," Dr Kelly said.

Dr Kelly urges people with tinnitus to seek advice from an audiologist.

"Worrying about tinnitus has been shown to make the condition worse. The first step that people can take to address their tinnitus is to get advice from someone who is trained to treat it.

"Our message to tinnitus sufferers is that they don't need to put up with this annoying condition. Most audiologists have had some training in tinnitus management and all audiologists should be able to refer people on to someone who can provide an appropriate treatment based on their individual needs."

The New Zealand Audiological Society conference will take place at the Duxton Hotel from Wednesday 5 May until Saturday 8 May. Dr Pawel Jastreboff is being brought to New Zealand by Siemens; Dr Paul Davis is being brought to New Zealand by Oticon.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Dr Pawel Jastreboff Dr Pawel Jastreboff is Director of the Tinnitus and Hyperacusis Centre at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, which is regarded as a centre of excellence for tinnitus research and patient treatment. Together with his wife, Dr Margaret Jastreboff, he has undertaken significant research into tinnitus and has lead TRT workshops in a number of countries.

Dr Paul Davis

Dr Paul Davis is Associate Professor of Audiology at Curtin University of Technology in Western Australia and Chief Scientific Officer at Neuromonics Ltd. A clinical audiologist who has developed a reputation as prominent tinnitus researcher, Dr Davis has been active in research and development into new audiological device and fitting systems.

Grant D Searchfield

Grant D Searchfield is a lecturer in the Department of Audiology at The University of Auckland and is a clinician at the University's Hearing and Tinnitus Clinic. Mr Searchfield heads a team of several researchers who are investigating the use of new and emerging digital-audio technology to assist in tinnitus management.

New Zealand Audiological Society

The New Zealand Audiological Society (NZAS) is the professional body for audiologists in New Zealand. NZAS aims to foster interest and excellence in audiology for the benefit of individuals with hearing loss and their families.

Tinnitus

* Tinnitus is the name given to the sounds that people can hear that have no external cause. Although usually associated with hearing loss, tinnitus is also experienced by people with normal hearing.

* While tinnitus shows that some kind of damage has been done to the hearing mechanism, it does not mean the person is going deaf.

* Tinnitus may be experienced as ringing, chirping, whirring, buzzing or roaring.

* There are many possible causes of tinnitus including wax pressing on the ear drum, damaged sensory cells in the inner ear and exposure to loud noise.

* The most common cause of tinnitus is damage in the auditory system (such as the hair cells in the inner ear), which allows abnormal messages to be perceived by the brain.

* There is no 'magic cure' for tinnitus but there is a range of treatments available including tinnitus retraining therapy, 'masking' (use of sound to distract attention away from the tinnitus), hearing aids, sound devices and self help groups.

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