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Hearing and Vision Q1 2022

The urgent need for a tinnitus biobank

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David Stockdale

Chief Executive, British Tinnitus Association 

Nic Wray

Communications Manager, British Tinnitus Association 

Tinnitus can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life. Increased investment in research is urgently needed to help find new solutions to treat the condition.


“A mosquito”; “reminds me of a steam train”; “it’s hard to describe, it’s not like anything I’ve heard before”. These people are talking about tinnitus, the perception of noises in the ears or head and one of the most misunderstood conditions in our society.

Severe impact on quality of life

Affecting one in eight adults in the UK, symptoms vary, but the impact of tinnitus on quality of life and mental health can be severe. In a recent survey conducted by the British Tinnitus Association (BTA) in November 2021, 9.3% of people living with tinnitus have had suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self-harm in the last two years.

Limited treatment options

There are limited options for treating tinnitus, which costs the NHS £750 million per year. There is no cure for tinnitus. Research into finding treatment options and a cure is vastly underfunded. Tinnitus research receives 40 times less funding than equivalent conditions, despite the huge impact it can have.

The BTA and the wider tinnitus community has, for some time, been discussing the idea of a tinnitus biobank, which would be a collection of biological or medical data and samples collected for research purposes.

The BTA has costed the establishment of a Tinnitus Biobank at £4 million, less than 1% of the annual cost of treating tinnitus.

Banking on a cure

A tinnitus biobank could allow us to understand the condition much better and answer questions that so far remain unanswered. It could help us find the underlying causes of tinnitus; ways to test; identify genetic biomarkers and uncover the links between tinnitus and other conditions. Ultimately, a tinnitus biobank could fast-track our journey to finding a cure or cures.

We know that challenges, such as the lack of an objective measure of tinnitus, hold back investment in the pursuit of a cure. If we are able to give pharmaceutical companies the tools they need, we can usher in a new era in the development of tinnitus treatments.

A call to action

The BTA has costed the establishment of a Tinnitus Biobank at £4 million, less than 1% of the annual cost of treating tinnitus.

The BTA is calling on the government and research funders to:

  • Fast-track support for tinnitus research funding.
  • Commit £4 million towards the creation of a Tinnitus Biobank.
  • Support the BTA to establish a tinnitus biobank to find cures and treatments.

People can register their support for a tinnitus biobank by visiting tinnitus.org.uk/biobank 

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