Tinnitus is a prevalent issue for veterans who are proportionally more hearing-impaired than
the civilian population.
This study will be conducted as three concurrent projects designed to develop an efficient
clinical technique to quantify tinnitus perception:
(1)Laboratory development of the automated technique for comprehensive tinnitus
quantification;(2)Development of a technique to test for tinnitus "malingering"; and
(3)Evaluation of the automated technique in the clinical environment.
Because of its close association with sensorineural hearing loss, tinnitus is a prevalent
issue for veterans who are proportionally more hearing-impaired than the civilian
population. The VA system disburses $110 million per year to over 115,000 veterans for their
service-connected tinnitus disability, thus it is clearly a problem for veterans and for the
VA. Unfortunately, most VAMCs do not have systematic clinical care available for their
veterans suffering from tinnitus. The most obvious needs are to develop effective treatment
methodologies for veterans, and to standardize a procedure for quantifying the disorder.
Each of these concerns is a focus of this laboratory, and the present proposal addresses the
latter need as a continuation study to develop reliable techniques to measure tinnitus.
The goal of this proposed study is a fully functional system, documented for response
reliability and ready for clinical implementation at VA audiology clinics outside of
Portland. To achieve that end goal, the study will be conducted as three concurrent
projects: (1) Further laboratory development of the automated technique for comprehensive
tinnitus quantification; (2) Development of a technique to test for tinnitus "malingering";
and (3) Evaluation of the automated technique in the clinical environment.
For Project 1, a series of experiments is proposed to reduce the time of testing, and to add
new measurement capabilities. Each experiment will involve specification, design, and
implementation of program modifications, human subject testing, analysis of results, and
further modifications as indicated. Another series of experiments (Project 2) will be
conducted to develop a tinnitus malingering exam. With such a test, veterans with true
tinnitus would provide reliable responses, while those feigning tinnitus would have
difficulty responding reliably. For Project 3, a duplicate measurement system will be
installed at the Portland VA Regional Tinnitus Clinic. The automated technique will be used
to quantify tinnitus in veteran patients during their tinnitus evaluation. Patients will be
invited to return for repeat testing, which will provide reliability data for clinical
responses. This project will promote clinical feedback that will be important for final
development of the system as a clinical tool.
The three projects outlined above are designed to develop an efficient clinical technique to
quantify tinnitus perception. Because the technique is computer automated, its
implementation at VA clinics will involve a minimum of training and expenditure. The
technique is further expected to impact the medical care of non-VA clinics, and could
John Fryer, Ph.D., Asst. Director
Department of Veterans Affairs, Program Analysis and Review Section (PARS), Rehabilitation Research