Harriet Smith, a BTA-funded PhD student at the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre, discusses her ongoing research study to develop a questionnaire to measure the impact of tinnitus in children.

Most often, tinnitus can only be heard by the person who experiences it. Unfortunately, there are no medical tests that can detect tinnitus or tell us how severe it is. This means that health professionals must rely on patients to describe their symptoms and the impact that tinnitus has on their life. Clinical questionnaires are used by health professionals as a way of measuring tinnitus. Questionnaires can be repeated over time to see if someone’s tinnitus has changed, or whether a treatment has helped. Questionnaires can be used in research to compare how different groups of people experience tinnitus and data from questionnaires can help build strong evidence about whether or not treatments are effective. Whilst there are many different questionnaires available to measure tinnitus in adults, no tinnitus questionnaires have been designed for use with children.

My BTA-funded project is developing a tinnitus questionnaire specifically for children. Through research with children with tinnitus and their families, I have designed the questionnaire based on tinnitus problems experienced by, and important to, children. The questions are written in child-friendly language and are structured in a way that is easy for children to complete.

When available, the new questionnaire will provide a valuable tool to support health professionals in assessing and treating children with troublesome tinnitus. My latest study is looking for children with tinnitus (aged 8-16) to test the new questionnaire by completing it at home. If you or someone you know would like to take part, please email [email protected].

It is wonderful to see tinnitus research at the forefront of this year’s Tinnitus Week, with the aim to push funding for tinnitus research to the top of the political agenda. I hope that the future sees more research into tinnitus in children, which remains a relatively unrecognised and under-researched area. In particular, I’d like to see research into how experiences of tinnitus may change as children grow into adulthood, as this could reveal important information relating to the underlying causes of tinnitus. I also hope to see the development of reliable medical tests to detect and measure tinnitus.