"Think of the sound of a jet plane engine shrieking to life in your ear, or having to listen to the maddening cacophony of ten thousand crickets in your head--all the time, for the rest of your life." This is how tinnitus is described by Mr. Scott Mitchell, a lawyer from Texas, avid amateur astronomer and self-proclaimed outdoor adventurer. He wants people without tinnitus to know that, while "Ringing in the ears may sound benign, millions of Americans including a great proportion of men and women in the armed forces suffer with this condition to the extent that it negatively impacts their quality of life." He notes, "I have also had to adjust my personal life and professional life to grapple with the disabilities associated with tinnitus."
Scott volunteers with the American Tinnitus Association (ATA), the national non-profit organization whose mission is to develop resources to fund research to cure tinnitus. He currently serves as the Chairman of the Board of the ATA and is "delighted with the emphasis on funding research toward a cure." "Acquiring tinnitus has changed my life in both positive and negative ways. On the negative side, I discovered that the current structure of health care management is not particularly responsive with a medical condition that falls through the cracks of the standard medical specialties. On the positive side, I have had the privilege of working with the dedicated staff members and volunteer Board of Directors of the ATA, as well as helping others with this condition. I also became acquainted with the small but committed community of tinnitus researchers who have engaged their professional careers to understanding this elusive but debilitating medical condition. Many of the researchers treat tinnitus patients and counsel support groups, so they are in direct contact with the tinnitus population."
Congress first included this important research area in the range of military relevant topics addressed by the Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP) in fiscal year 2008. Scott states: "I first learned about the PRMRP when the ATA Director of Public Affairs, Jennifer DuPriest, advised me that the congressional appropriation was going to be managed by this organization. I was accepted by the PRMRP to serve as a consumer reviewer. In that capacity, I studied the research proposals and participated in the panel discussions. I found the process extremely well organized and felt that my time was well spent. I think the tinnitus community was well served by the structured and disciplined approach to evaluating the scientific merits of each proposal."