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Tinnitus Sufferer




Tessa Law was inconsolable for six months after she was diagnosed with tinnitus. Even now, four years later, she refuses to believe it is irreversible; she won’t give up hope for a cure.

Also known as ringing in the ears or head, tinnitus is a highly prevalent condition afflicting seven per cent of New Zealanders – approximately 345,000 people.

“I literally woke up and it was really loud. It started to dawn on me this was tinnitus and chronic,” the Aucklander says. “I thought I would not be able to have a normal life. It was totally consuming. I felt like I couldn’t breathe or think. All I wanted was to get away from that noise in my head.”

Tessa’s tinnitus is a perpetual cacophony of screaming – primarily it sounds like cicadas with screeching train brakes, and occasionally a tea kettle whistle on top.

Associate Professor Grant Searchfield has been researching tinnitus for several decades, and is renowned around the world.

He credits much of his research success to funding from the Auckland Medical Research Foundation (AMRF), from when he was an emerging researcher. Through the decades AMRF has aided trials of new treatments, laying the foundations for future studies.

Grant, the Clinical Director of the University of Auckland’s Hearing and Tinnitus Clinic, collaborated on the creation of the Tinnitus Functional Index, internationally considered the gold standard measure on tinnitus’s effect on quality of life.


“Our research has been well received internationally. We really are at the cutting edge in New Zealand,” he says.

That gives Tessa hope. “I spent the first few years chasing solutions. I went to London to a tinnitus clinic, then I went to the University of Auckland tinnitus clinic, and that far surpassed the Harley Street one.

“I totally believe that if it came on suddenly it can be turned off suddenly too. But research is vital – or nothing changes. I have hope because Grant is one of the best in the world.”

Grant says the key to effective treatments is discovering that there are different types of tinnitus. “Now we are able to tailor treatment. Tinnitus can be a barometer for stress. Our brain is developed to use auditory information for our survival, so the brain focusses heavily on that sound and we become more aware of it.

“We can train the brain to reverse that automatic focus to not listen into it. An end goal would be to find a cure for the millions worldwide with tinnitus. If my work can contribute to this I’d be very happy.” 

How you can make a life-changing difference

Donations are vital to help the Auckland Medical Research Foundation fund life-changing medical research – and 100% of that donation goes directly into research.

AMRF has been supporting medical research for more than 65 years, through the generosity of its donors. This can be a one-off end-of-financial year donation, a regular contribution or a bequest from someone who wants to leave a legacy.

“The Foundation exists to improve health outcomes, through supporting medical research. Every single cent, every single dollar goes directly into that research,” Sue Brewster, Executive Director of AMRF, says. “


The demand for funding support has never been greater. We invest in a wide range of research affecting people of all ages, with potential to put New Zealand on the world stage. This includes audiology conditions, neurological issues such as dementia and Parkinsons, cancers, bone health and stroke along with many more conditions.


One hundred per cent of all donations to the Auckland Medial Research Foundation go directly to funding across the spectrum of medical research and health. 

Who is AMRF and what do you do?

AMRF was established in 1955, and in its 66 years has invested more than $84 million into a wide range of medical research. An endowment funds all of AMRF’s administration costs, enabling 100% of donations to go directly to medical and health research.

AMRF’s key focus is to financially support medical researchers and their projects led out of the greater Auckland region, assist in furthering their international collaborations and gaining invaluable off-shore knowledge along with repatriating  medical researchers and scientists back to New Zealand. 

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