Raine Foundation Sabbatical
Last updated on 21 May 2013
The Association helped sponsor a research sabbatical by Dr. David Baguley at the world-leading Raine Medical Research Foundation, University of Western Australia. This will be reported on at the Association’s annual conference in October 2007. The following article is taken from the Summer 2007 edition of our Journal, Quiet:
It was a real honour to be granted a Raine Visiting Professorship at the University of Western Australia (UWA) earlier this year. Following discussions with family and colleagues it was agreed that I would be free to take up this temporary position between late January and early April, a total of 11 weeks. Financial support was available from the Raine Foundation, the BTA and Deafness Research UK. The purpose of the Professorship was to work within the Ear Sciences Institute of Australia, which consists of Ear Surgeons, basic scientists and Audiologists working together on projects of common interest. Additionally, within UWA there is a world class Auditory Physiology Laboratory which has been consistently interested in mechanisms of tinnitus and hearing loss, and one of my objectives was to work with the scientists in that group, and to learn some of their valuable insights. As many readers will know, it is my belief that tinnitus research has to involve both clinicians and basic scientists, and much of my time is spent building dialogue between these two communities.
While I was in Perth I was asked to give a series of ten formal lectures to a variety of audiences, one of which was my Raine lecture which was open to the public. All my talks were very well attended, and I was pleased that they were well received. My aim had been to summarise present knowledge regarding tinnitus and hyperacusis, and it was really encouraging to see the enthusiasm with which people engaged with the subject.
One really interesting issue for me was the way in which tinnitus therapy is delivered in Western Australia. There is essentially no service for people with troublesome tinnitus in the public sector, and private provision is associated with hearing aid practices, which are found in many shopping malls and high streets. There are advantages to this, in that one can see a sign for “Tinnitus Management Services” on the way to the supermarket or the hairdressers. I was concerned though that many people with distressing tinnitus would not be able to access these private services. A key element of the teaching that I did was working with Audiologists to identify what tinnitus services they could offer on a straightforward and inexpensive basis.
There is a treatment for tinnitus that has been developed in Australia that is becoming more widely available. Neuromonics is a sound and counselling based therapy, using music that has been filtered to match the hearing loss of the individual. The cost is in the order of $5000 Australian dollars, and the patient commitment needed is significant. The Neuromonics technique has not yet been independently verified, but it does seem to be as effective as other sound and counselling based approaches (such as those available in the UK). It is not yet CE marked, and so is not available in Europe. The scientist behind Neuromonics, Dr Paul Davis and I spent many hours discussing and arguing through the scientific and clinical insights we had on tinnitus, and this was very rewarding for me.
Other professional highlights included lengthy discussions with the scientists in the Auditory Physiology Labs, and in particular work looking at the relationship between tinnitus, hyperacusis and Acoustic Shock. A presentation at the annual Ear Nose and Throat Surgeons conference was spectacularly well received, and I think (hope!) I influenced many people that afternoon. The time I had for reflection and discussion was really refreshing and most welcome: I managed to write three textbook chapters and three scientific papers while I was away!
On a personal level, there were some times of difficulty – my family were only with me for two and a half weeks out of the eleven, which was tough for us all. On the other hand, I did get to swim in the Indian Ocean, see lots of wild dolphins, and to be treated to a barbecued kangaroo steak in my birthday – it tastes like venison!
The support I received for my trip from the BTA, both financial and encouragement, was extremely important to me, and I thank you for it: it meant a great deal to me.
it is my belief that tinnitus research has to involve both clinicians and basic scientists