New Research in Tinnitus

Millions of Americans suffer from a condition called tinnitus. It is a debilitating, life-changing condition that allows for no silence. Instead of silence, those with tinnitus experience a ringing, buzzing, hissing, humming or other unreal noise. In a recent study done at the University of Michigan Medical School, researchers have discovered neurological interactions that may help explain what is happening in the brain of someone with tinnitus.

The findings are published online in the Journal of Neuroscience. The research was conducted with non-human animals, though it still proves to be a worthy step into treating tinnitus in humans.

Susan Shore, Ph.D., the senior author of the paper, says her team has confirmed that a process called stimulus-timing dependent multi-sensory plasticity is altered in animals with tinnitus. This plasticity is “exquisitely sensitive” to the arrival of signals coming into key areas of the brain. That area, the dorsal cochlea nucleus, is the first station for signals traveling into the brain from the ear, via the auditory nerve. Essentially, what happens is this: when someone who has tinnitus processes sound, the signal is sent to the cochlea. It's here where other “multitasking” neurons connect. These other neurons receive a weak signal and respond in a hyperactive manner, which in turn causes the noise.

“It's as if the signals are compensating for the lost auditory input, but they are overcompensating and end up making everything noisy,” says Shore.

This connection explains why many tinnitus sufferers can adjust the volume of their tinnitus ringing by moving their neck or clenching their jaw.

Tinnitus generally affects older people. The condition is found most often with hearing loss, but can also be caused by head and neck trauma. Veterans are especially susceptible to tinnitus, as loud noises, such as blast forces often experienced in the military, can cause ear damage.

Source: Science Daily

« Back to Resources