A new paper published this week in JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, 'Novel Risk Loci in Tinnitus and Causal Inference With Neuropsychiatric Disorders' has found eight genes and three loci (specific fixed positions on a chromosome) which can be strongly linked to tinnitus.

These results, if repeated, could overturn the current thinking that tinnitus is a symptom and could form the basis of considering tinnitus as a neurological condition. 

The study also indicated that tinnitus shared similarities with conditions such as hearing loss, insomnia and depression – conditions which often occur together with tinnitus, and which also involve multiple genes.

Genetic tagging of specific forms (sub-types) of tinnitus could have an important role to play in the development of better tinnitus treatments, including drugs for tinnitus.

Although it seems increasingly clear that there is a genetic element to tinnitus, other studies have highlighted the importance of environmental factors. This interaction between many genes and various environmental factors marks tinnitus as a complex condition.

The paper from Royce Clifford and her team has already been talked of as an important milestone, but more work is needed to unravel the complexities of tinnitus. Studies such as this point towards the need for an in-depth tinnitus-specific biobank, which would allow us to understand the genetic and environmental factors associated with tinnitus, and take forwards our understanding of tinnitus and facilitate our search for a cure. We are driving progress in this field, as the rewards could be ground breaking.

Support a tinnitus biobank

Help us to develop a tinnitus biobank (a database of health information) for a long-term study into genetic and environmental factors associated with tinnitus.

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Join in the discussion

Dr Chris Cederroth  will be discussing ‘Emerging insights in the genetics of tinnitus’ at our upcoming virtual conference, running from 5 to 9 October. Click the button for more details and to purchase your ticket.

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Further reading

Clifford RE, Maihofer AX, Stein MB, Ryan AF, Nievergelt CM. Novel Risk Loci in Tinnitus and Causal Inference With Neuropsychiatric Disorders Among Adults of European Ancestry. JAMA Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery. Published online September 24, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2020.2920

Cederroth CR, Trpchevska N, Langguth B. A New Buzz for Tinnitus—It’s in the Genes! JAMA Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery. Published online September 24, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2020.2919

Photo: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay