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Approved research

Understanding observational and causal relationships in tinnitus prevalence and severity

Principal Investigator: Mr Malcolm Hilton
Approved Research ID: 19189
Approval date: January 1st 2016

Lay summary

We intend to review a large group of people with tinnitus (ringing in the ears) to see whether we can identify factors common to this group that put them at risk of having tinnitus or that influence their tinnitus severity. We will then utilise a genetic technique (known as Mendelian randomisation) to investigate causal pathways between these factors. This is important as our understanding of tinnitus development and severity is limited, meaning that no effective treatments are yet available. If we can identify risk factors we can advise people to address these, hopefully leading to an improvement in their symptoms. Data will be analysed using a two stage approach, whereby observational and genetic epidemiological techniques will be analysed to identify risk factors with a causal role in tinnitus and tinnitus severity. We anticipate that many of these will be potentially reversible (ie obesity, smoking, use of certain medications etc), and we therefore intend to suggest an entirely new avenue of treatment for tinnitus sufferers based on addressing these risk factors, with the intention that lowering the risk factors will improve their symptoms. Initially we will investigate associations between tinnitus and a range of factors in the UK Biobank, based on current literature (including body mass index, fat mass measures, medications, smoking and dietary factors). Associations will also be investigated between how these factors influence tinnitus severity. Following these associations we will, where possible, utilize genetics to help us unpick the causal relationship between tinnitus and these factors using a technique known as Mendelian randomization (see question 2 for more information). We will not need to contact any of the participants again as all the information we need has already been collected. We will be using data from approximately 200,000 UK Biobank participants (ie the subset who were questioned about tinnitus).