Researchers have tried to study tinnitus by looking at the rat, which can develop the condition. Moore turned to the zebrafish, a tropical fish that's often found in aquariums.
Fish, like humans, have two ears, he said, and electrical activity allows the fish to hear. Moore is giving different drugs to the fish and testing how they affect neuronal activity involving hearing.
Moore said he's submitted a grant proposal to the Department of Defense, which is spending money to support research into tinnitus.
Anthony Cacace, a professor of communications sciences and disorders at Wayne State University, said the key to any research in animals is to determine that they actually hear tinnitus. Research suggests that rats and mice do, he said.
"You have to know if they have tinnitus before you treat it with drugs," he said.
Research has progressed over just the last couple of years, Cacace said, as scientists have learned new ways to gauge the effectiveness of treatments by doing a better job of monitoring the nervous systems of animals.
Learn more about tinnitus from the National Institutes of Health.
SOURCES: Ernest Moore, Ph.D., audiologist and cell biologist, Northwestern University, Chicago; Anthony Cacace, Ph.D., professor, communications sciences and disorders, Wayne State University, Detroit
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