For people who suffer from a continuous ringing, buzzing or hissing in their ears, a new resource can help. The Hear-Ring Lab, a clinical research facility run by the School of Health Professions and Human Services, studies different approaches to assessing and managing tinnitus, a condition that affects 30 million Americans, including as many as a quarter of those over age 60. The condition can disrupt sleep, interfere with concentration, and cause psychological distress.
“A lack of silence can be devastating,” said Aniruddha Deshpande, PhD, CCC-A, assistant professor in the Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences and a certified audiologist who directs the lab and oversees its studies. “Tinnitus has no cure, but its impact can be successfully reduced in many patients.”
Dr. Deshpande’s undergraduate and doctoral students help run the lab’s five current projects, which include studies investigating how people seek out information on tinnitus, examining brain waves in patients with bothersome tinnitus, and the occurrence of music-induced hearing loss and tinnitus in high school students. The lab also tests the use of virtual reality technology as a treatment option.
The lab’s mission is to provide information on causes, prevention and management strategies, and to recruit participants for research projects.
“What I love about this field is that you can often see right away that you’ve helped someone,” said Tova Shimunova, who is beginning her first year as a doctoral student in audiology. “When someone comes in with an issue such as hearing loss and leaves satisfied because you provided a solution for them, you know you’ve made a difference.”
Shimunova will serve as the Hear-Ring Lab manager starting in the fall, and will work on a research study exploring the use and effectiveness of mobile apps for tinnitus.
“The lab provides a good opportunity for students to not only develop their own research ideas, but also strengthen their managerial skills,” said Dr. Deshpande.“They get hands-on experience operating different audiological equipment and interacting with patients. We have regular lab meetings to discuss their ideas and suggestions to improve the lab.”
Dr. Deshpande established the lab, located in Davison Hall, when he arrived at Hofstra in fall 2015 from the University of Iowa, where he
was a research audiologist and postdoctoral fellow. For his work on tinnitus, Dr. Deshpande was selected last year as one of 28 professionals nationwide for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s 2016-17 leadership development program for audiologists.
“Dr. Deshpande’s important work in tinnitus research and management is of great benefit to the University, as well as to the larger community, “ said Dr. Carole Ferrand, chair of the Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences. “By developing further insights into this disorder, he is making a significant contribution to the field of audiology and advancing our mission to prepare students to be skilled, compassionate health care professionals.”