Founder of Tinnitus Research Initiative honoured

10 June 2011

Dr Matteo de Nora, of Monaco was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) for his services to yachting in the recent New Zealand Queen’s Birthday Honours list, but of far greater relevance to the faculty is his extensive contribution to research in the area of tinnitus.

Matteo is the founder of the Tinnitus Research Initiative which links the world leaders in this field, these including researchers at The University of Auckland such as Grant Searchfield and his team in the Department of Audiology.

Tinnitus is the perception of sound within the human ear in the absence of corresponding external sound. It can result from a variety of causes ranging from abnormally loud sounds in the ear canal to ear infections through to natural impairments associated with ageing. Almost one in eight of people aged between 55 and 65 report symptoms of tinnitus on specific questionnaires, and for the majority of these the underlying cause is noise induced hearing loss.

It was a motor vehicle accident in Egypt in 2004 that saw Matteo de Nora enter the ranks of the tinnitus-affected when he suffered whiplash, stress and had the blood supply to his ear disrupted when his carotid artery was dissected. Unlike many other sufferers, Matteo was in the fortunate financial  position to not suffer in silence but to do something to help.

“In 2006 Matteo set up what is known as the Tinnitus Research Initiative (TRI) which links scientists and researchers around the world under a common goal,” outlines Dr Grant Searchfield,  Head of The University of Auckland’s Audiology Section and a member of the Scientific Committee of the Tinnitus Research Initiative.

“What he has done is to link researchers in up to 40 countries under a common banner which is to provide sufferers with relief from and cures to tinnitus. He has singlehandedly funded much of the research but more importantly, he has facilitated the sharing of this research. Globally he has advanced tinnitus research amazingly.”

Dr Searchfield stresses that Matteo de Nora brings far more than money to the research table.

“Matteo is a very organised person and regards teamwork as a vital part of any business or in the Team New Zealand case, for a sporting team. He brings that same teamwork focus to the Tinnitus Research Initiative, and this has seen quite a number of international collaborations established in the field, with very little overlap or duplication of resources.”

“Under his direction the TRI has established a series of workgroups which represent seven research domains of interest, each with a detailed work programme dedicated to a specific topic, on which researchers and clinicians from different disciplines actively collaborate. These include Pharmacology, Neurostimulation, Auditory Stimulation (which is being led by The University of Auckland), Somatosensory Modulation, Nutritional balance and Tinnitus subtyping.”

Matteo de Nora is recognised as having assisted Team New Zealand’s quest for the America’s Cup to the tune of millions of dollars. His contribution to tinnitus research is likely worth far more, and if successful as planned, will benefit many more people all over the world.  In an excellent and inspiring foreword to the ‘Textbook of Tinnitus’,

Matteo outlines his motivation to get involved in this research

, and where he believes it will go. It is a very good insight into what drives people to support research and the many emotions which lie behind this.