Tinnitus, a condition where a person hears a persistent ringing in their ears, is a fact of life for as many as one in five Australians, according to the Victorian government’s Better Health Channel1.
Often fluctuating in intensity throughout the day, tinnitus can be a distressing experience when left untreated, causing unprecedented stress and sometimes impacting a person’s sleep quality.
For anyone living with the condition, the good news is that relief can be found in the form of tinnitus-specific hearing devices, designed to minimise the effect of symptoms. However, as research is ongoing to find a cure, we thought we’d highlight an interesting discovery from the University of Connecticut (UConn).
Finding a cure for tinnitus through epilepsy research
Dr Anastasios Tzingounis from UConn has endeavoured to perfect a drug therapy for epilepsy without the side effects that are known to accompany medications such as retigabine2.
What does this have to do with tinnitus?
Well, like epilepsy, tinnitus has been linked to a genetic issue concerning our brain’s ability to block overstimulation by incoming nerve cells2. When the brain becomes overloaded by signals from incoming nerve cells, it can result in either tinnitus or an epileptic seizure2.
To prevent this, the brain will usually ‘put on the brakes’ to prevent itself from becoming overloaded. It does this by opening up certain potassium channels – a mechanism which epilepsy drugs aim to trigger artificially2.
Dr Tzingounis’ new drug, SF0034 aims to do just this, but without the undesirable side effects of retigabine that also make it unsuitable for children. The findings thus far have been promising, with SF0034 proving to be effective in helping prevent seizures in animals.
“SF0034 gives me another tool, and a better tool, to dissect the function of these [potassium] channels,” he says. “We need to find solutions for kids and adults with this problem.”
If you’ve been experiencing ringing in your ears, click here or call 1300 674 934 to request a no cost* hearing check-up with Adelaide Digital Hearing Solutions.
1Better Health Channel, Tinnitus. Accessed September 23, 2015.
2UConn, Quiet that Ringing in the Brain. Accessed October 23, 2015.