WTAMU Professor Finds Missing Link in Treatment of Tinnitus Just by taking a step outside the box of conventional wisdom, a West Texas A&M University professor has discovered a major missing link in the diagnosis and treatment of tinnitus, a condition marked by a ringing sound in the ears.
“We now have a model that can be used in a number of ways, including testing with normal humans, computer models and even rats, to search for the neurological origins of tinnitus,” Dr. Leslie Dalton, visiting professor of communication disorders, said.
Dalton has found that a particular area of the brain can be programmed to suppress the debilitating effects of the phantom sounds of tinnitus. The condition is marked by a loud, high pitched ringing that can be very annoying and usually accompanies a hearing loss. Dalton said it almost always is present in post traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) in soldiers who have been in harm’s way emotionally and physically.
“We were working on something else when the discovery was made,” Dalton said. “First of all, we were looking at traditional efforts in masking the phantom sound when it occurred to me that we were focusing on the sound and not the hearing nerve’s reaction to the sound. We then shifted our focus and found that we could make the tinnitus go away by taking advantage of how the auditory system works normally while totally ignoring the phantom sound itself. Furthermore, we could simulate the tinnitus in persons without tinnitus by placing a noise in their ears, and lo and behold, we could make that noise go away as well.”
The discovery is a result of a grant from the WTAMU Killgore Research Center to study PTSD-related hearing disorders in veterans of recent wars including Viet Nam. Dalton conducts his research in two different labs on campus—one in experimental psychology and one in the communication disorders area—and the next step is to explore the test model on rats. The research is a labor of love for Dalton who suffers severe tinnitus and loss of hearing himself after his years in the military during the Korean War.
“We are definitely on the threshold of something large for the University,” Dalton said.
Dalton, who joined the WTAMU faculty in 2008, is not a newcomer to leading edge technology in the hearing and speech sciences. He has more than 40 years of research under his belt as well as three patents and one pending dealing with the hearing neurological pathways in disorders such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), CAPD (Central Auditory Processing Disorder), autism, PTSD and cochlear implants. His dream is to establish a clinical research program at WTAMU to serve the Panhandle’s needs for research and treatment of those diseases.
For more information about his research, contact Dalton at firstname.lastname@example.org. People with tinnitus are needed for Dalton’s research. Those interested in participating can call the WTAMU Speech and Hearing Clinic at 806-651-5101.
The West Texas A&M University Speech and Hearing Clinic provides diagnostic and therapeutic services to all ages at locations in both Amarillo and Canyon. For more information, contact the clinic at 806-651-5101