"'We cannot do anything about your tinnitus'. This is simply not true"

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“The biggest mistake is to make tinnitus patients believe there is nothing we can do”, said Dr Pawel J. Jastreboff, father and creator of the Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT), interviewed by Audio Infos Spain. Marking the 25th anniversary of one of the most successful tinnitus therapies, Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT), Jastreboff, from Emory University (Altanta, U.S.), was in Spain last fall to take part in the “Tinnitus and its treatment with hearing aids” congress, organized by GAES as part of the National Congress of the Spanish Society of Otolaryngology and cervicofacial pathologies (SEORL). The event was attended by over 200 professionals and was an opportunity to stress the need to address this condition with every available method, given that it affects 4 million people in Spain.

Pawel J. Jastreboff. It is a matter of retraining the brain. To help patients understand this, I often use the following example. You have learned to drive on the right. Now imagine that you move to New Zealand for work, and you have to learn to drive on the left. You would be a dangerous driver because, even though you would be fully aware of what you need to do, you would not manage because driving is controlled by your subconscious brain. However, you can teach your brain to drive on the left and after a while, you will be able to do it perfectly well. The problem with tinnitus is that the signal originates in the auditory system and then spreads to the limbic system. TRT tries to retrain the brain by limiting the connections between the auditory system and the other systems of the brain so that the signals are restricted to the auditory system and do not contaminate the others.

Pawel J. Jastreboff, during his lecture at the Spanish ENT congress

Audio Infos. How did you build this model?

P.J.J. It was by chance. I was studying the ear, balance and the cerebellum. I went to Yale University to study the mechanisms of the sense of smell and after one year, a young researcher asked me to help design an animal model to improve tinnitus. I thought this was impossible, because if we were unable to ascertain evidence of tinnitus in human beings, how could we do so in rats? I shared my concerns about his approach, and suggested we could get results with a behavioral method. He said “here is the money, here is the lab, go ahead”. So I did.