Spotlight on Clinical Research

Clinical Trial Tests Drug for Tinnitus

Tinnitus, often referred to as ringing in the ears, can sometimes disappear on its own. In some cases, however, it persists indefinitely, which can be disruptive to those who suffer from this condition.

There are currently no medications or therapies that have proven to be effective in treating acute inner ear tinnitus, but doctors hope to change that. Dr. Elias Michaelides, who treats diseases of the ear, nose and throat, is conducting a clinical trial using an investigational drug to treat tinnitus following an injury to the inner ear or a middle ear infection.

“When someone is exposed to noise and develops tinnitus, which is an irritation of the inner ear, once that irritation is gone, the tinnitus may persist,” explained Dr. Michaelides. That’s because tinnitus starts in the inner ear, but it affects nerves that travel to the brain. Once it is established in the brain, the chances of a cure are very low. The study drug works on nerve endings in the inner ear that create long term tinnitus. “If we can stop the nerves from establishing the pathway that gets reinforced, people may not have tinnitus long term,” said Dr. Michaelides.

To be eligible for the study, the onset of your tinnitus must have started within three months and it must have been caused by an infection or trauma to the ear. For example, if you are experiencing tinnitus following exposure to fireworks or a firecracker during 4th of July, you may be eligible to participate in the study.

Yale is one of multiple sites around the country that is conducting the trial, which involves three injections into the ear and several follow-up visits. Participants are also required to report the quality and intensity of their tinnitus daily on a programmed cell phone that is supplied by study staff.

If you are interested in taking part in the study or would like to learn more, contact Sherrie Bitterman, RN, at 203-584-8404 or sherrie.bitterman@yale.edu.