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LU receives $397,800 NIH grant for tinnitus relief research

Vinaya Manchaiah, associate professor and Jo Mayo Endowed Professor in Lamar University’s Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, has been awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health-National Deafness and Other Communication Disorders for $397,800 to study relief efforts for tinnitus sufferers in the U.S.

Manchaiah has significant experience in developing and testing internet-based interventions including President’s Visionary Grant awarded by the university in 2016 that supported using digital technologies to have significant positive effects in health related information dissemination and recovery processes.

Nearly 50 million people in the U.S. experience tinnitus, whereas about 20 million people struggle with burdensome chronic tinnitus, Manchaiah said. Tinnitus is debilitating for many individuals, affecting many aspects of daily life, such as sleep, mood and concentration. Currently, there is no cure for this condition.

Literature suggests that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a treatment that addresses the affected individual’s reaction to tinnitus, has the most evidence-based benefits in the management of tinnitus, while there is limited value in pharmacological or sound-therapy based interventions. Yet, CBT is offered at a rate of less than one percent in U.S. cases, and few professionals are trained in the treatment. Additionally, psychological management options such as CBT are primarily offered in English, resulting in fewer options for non-English speaking patients.

In his proposal, Manchaiah will develop a way to offer CBT via the Internet as a guided self-help program. This so-called iCBT can be customized to meet individual needs both in terms of language and access.

“The long-term goal of this initiative is to develop an accessible and affordable self-help program that can improve health outcomes in individuals with tinnitus,” he said.

The proposed study aims to adapt an Internet-based self-help program developed in Europe for U.S. populations.

In the work, he will adapt a platform for delivering iCBT developed in Sweden and the UK to culture and language appropriate for U.S. populations, in both English and Spanish. He will set up a pilot evaluation of the iCBT program, making adjustments based on findings, then conduct a more structured evaluation to determine the efficacy of iCBT for tinnitus sufferers.

Manchaiah will seek to demonstrate that using iCBT will result in reduced tinnitus related distress, decreased sleep disturbance, decreased anxiety and depression, and improved general health in a treatment group as compared to tinnitus sufferers in the waiting list control-group in the U.S. population.

In this part of the research, Manchaiah examine the efficacy of iCBT for the tinnitus population in the U.S., determining if the iCBT self-help program has the potential to relieve distress associated with tinnitus, and improve other health outcomes. In addition, the study will focus on understanding both the barriers to and facilitators of success in iCBT and examine outcome predictors and short and long-term outcomes.

“The efficacy trial proposed in this project is the first step to determine if iCBT produces expected outcomes in controlled conditions,” he said. “However, future work will focus on examining the degree of benefit from iCBT for tinnitus sufferers when compared to routine face-to-face clinical care with common tinnitus interventions such as informational counseling, hearing aids, and sound therapy.”

“The proposed project will help us better understand how tinnitus sufferers in the U.S. interact with the iCBT program, and it will help in fine-tuning the content, presentation and process-flow,” he said. 

Considering that there is limited access to evidence-based interventions such as CBT for the U.S. population, this initiative has the potential to improve accessibility of care, and can also substantially reduce cost, making it affordable to those in need, Manchaiah said.

Securing a grant is a team effort, Manchaiah said, giving credit to his department chair, Monica Harn, for her support and inspiration, as well as Julie Maxey and Roxanne Parks from the Department of Research and Sponsored Programs "for excellent administrative support and feedback throughout the preparation of this grant application."

Originally from South India, Manchaiah holds a Ph.D. in disability research from Linkoping University, Sweden. He also holds a number of degrees including an MBA from Swansea University, United Kingdom, Doctor of Audiology from Nova Southeastern University, MSC in Audiology from the University of Southampton, and a Bachelor’s of Science in Speech and Hearing from the University of Mysore, India.

“His contributions have put the program of audiology at Lamar University in the national and global spotlight,” said Department Chair Monica Harn.

In 2016, Manchaiah was named to the Jerger Future Leaders of Audiology by the American Academy of Audiology, one of only a dozen individuals named nationwide. Manchaiah is also the co-founder and director for strategic planning for the non-profit non-governmental organization Audiology India, for which he served as president from 2011 to 2015. The organization seeks to foster ear and hearing health care in India. In 2017, he was honored by the NRI Institute at the Leela Palace, Chanakyapuri, New-Delhi, India, for his work in the field of education.