September 26, 2011:
Tinnitus — More than a hearing problem
Researchers have found that the ringing sound of tinnitus is produced by the brain, as it overcompensates for a hearing loss.
According to a study in the US, conducted by Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC), tinnitus is not only the effect of obstruction or damage in the ear, but the result of the brain unsuccessfully trying to repair itself. That is, the absence of sound caused by loss of hearing in certain frequencies forces the brain to produce sounds to replace what is now missing. The researchers found, that tinnitus arises when another section of the brain, the limbic system, fails to stop these produced sounds from getting to conscious auditory processing.
Tinnitus appears to be produced by an unfortunate confluence of structural and functional changes in the brain, the researchers of the study say.
The lead investigator of the study, Josef P. Rauschecker, says: “We believe that a dysregulation of the limbic and auditory networks may be at the heart of chronic tinnitus”.
To achieve a complete understanding and ultimate cure for tinnitus, it is, according to Rauschecker, of great importance to understand the nature and basis of this dysregulation.