Scientists to seek ways to treat battle-related epidemic of tinnitus By David Kirkwood On August 9, 2011 PORTLAND, OR–Anthony T. Cacace, PhD, and Jinsheng Zhang, PhD, both leading researchers on tinnitus and professors at Wayne State University, have received a $1.5-million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to study blast- and concussion-induced tinnitus. The American Tinnitus Association (ATA), which announced the grant last week, notes that tinnitus is the most common service-connected disability among military veterans from all periods of service. As of the start of 2011, nearly 800,000 veterans suffered from it. The condition is particularly prevalent in servicemen and women returning from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. There, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are the leading cause of deaths and injuries, including damage to the brain and auditory system. Cacace chairs ATA’s Scientific Advisory Committee, a multi-disciplinary group of basic scientists and clinical researchers, and Zhang is a contributing member. Their project is designed to study tinnitus and related traumatic brain injury (TBI) to the ear and brain resulting from blast and concussion injuries. Most commonly caused by exposure to very loud noise, tinnitus is often referred to as “ringing in the ears,” and accompanied by some hearing loss. However, returning military personnel from the Middle East are reporting tinnitus in record numbers in the absence of any measurable hearing loss. Blast- and concussion-induced injuries to the ear and brain are the signature injuries of these conflicts, and are the second most frequent injury among military personnel and veterans.” Zhang said, “This work is focused on establishing the underlying mechanisms of blast- and concussion-induced tinnitus and related brain injury by applying contemporary methods used in neuroscience research, with intent to develop effective treatments towards the advancement of a cure.” He added, “We anticipate that once the underlying basis of blast- and concussion-induced tinnitus and related brain injury is established and clearly understood, effective treatment modalities will be developed in an expeditious manner.” The project will have two phases, and include animal and human study. The first phase will investigate blast- and concussion-induced tinnitus-related TBI in a rat model by evaluating anatomical, electrophysiological, and neurobiochemical changes in the brain following trauma. Phase two will involve 90 individuals and will investigate blast- and concussion-induced tinnitus-related TBI in humans by performing neuropsychological and psychophysical tests, detecting pathophysiological changes and MRI imaging in patients with blast and concussive injuries.