Hearing loss


At a glance

Understanding what causes tinnitus and other hearing disorders

Lead researcher

Dr Vassilis Pelekanos


University of Nottingham


Awarded and preparing to start

Amount awarded


Last updated



Dr Vassilis Pelekanos is trying to better understand what causes the hearing disorder, tinnitus, by looking at the brain's subcortical auditory system.

V Pelekanos photo Medium Dr Vassilis Pelekanos

Hearing disorders can have serious negative consequences for our ability to lead fulfilling lives. Among many other impacts, they can impact communication - potentially leading to social isolation and stigma.

Hearing loss is also the main risk-factor for tinnitus, a potentially debilitating hearing disorder that affects 10-15% of the population. Often, tinnitus is accompanied by hyperacusis, a particularly troublesome hearing disorder, where everyday sounds may seem unbearably loud and even painful.

The subcortical auditory brain system refers to the neural pathways and structures located beneath the cerebral cortex that are involved in processing auditory information.

These structures play a crucial role in the early stages of auditory processing, including sound localization, sound discrimination, and the initial encoding of auditory stimuli before they are further processed in the higher cortical areas.

The cerebral cortex is the outer layer of the brain and is often referred to as the "grey matter" due to its greyish appearance. It plays a critical role in many complex brain functions, including memory, attention, perception, awareness, thought, language, and consciousness.

Scientific research indicates that in hearing loss, neural activity at sub-cortical auditory brain structures is increased. Prominent theories have linked this particular increase in neural activity to tinnitus and hyperacusis.

Dr Vassilis Pelekanos from the University of Nottingham wants to better understand the mechanisms underpinning tinnitus and hyperacusis by investigating the human sub-cortical auditory system non-invasively in the living brain.

Dr Pelekanos will use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data from two large databases in biomedical research, the Human Connectome Project (HCP) and the UK Biobank (UKB).

Using cutting-edge brain imaging analysis techniques applied to each individual participant in the HCP dataset, Dr Pelekanos will develop methods for the personalised mapping and validation of the auditory part of the thalamus, which is one of the most important parts of the sub-cortical auditory system, transmitting the neural signal to the cortex.

Dr Pelekanos and his team hope that the insights the insights from this study will lead to the development of better, personalised, interventions and treatment options for hearing disorders, in particular, tinnitus and hyperacusis.