Veteranclaims’s Blog

November 18, 2010

Researchers Pinpoint Tinnitus Cause to Brain, Not Inner Ear

Full Article at: Researchers pinpoint cause of tinnitus
People who suffer from a phantom and constant ringing in their ears — a condition known as tinnitus — had long been told the noise was all in their head.

It turns out, it is.

A research team from McMaster University in Hamilton and several other universities in Canada and the United States have pinpointed the source of the often debilitating condition that affects millions of people worldwide and has a dramatic impact on the quality of their lives.

In an article published in the latest edition of The Journal of Neuroscience, scientists report that the tinnitus sound — described by many sufferers as a constant high-pitched ringing or hissing noise — is generated by neurons firing in the brain, not the ear.

“We found that tinnitus is generated not in the ear but by changes that occur in the brain when hearing loss occurs,” said Larry Roberts, a neuroscientist and the lead researcher from McMaster. “It’s hearing loss associated with noise exposure that causes the majority of the cases.”

The research was conducted in conjunction with scientists from the universities of Calgary, Southern Illinois and Michigan, the Cleveland Clinic and Harvard University.

Roberts said that through studies on animals, research showed that if the auditory nerve of a tinnitus sufferer is severed, the condition doesn’t disappear. That means the root of the issue lies not in the ears, but in the brain, he said.

And while the condition has been attributed to everything from loud noises, to antibiotic use and stress, no definitive cause or cure has been found, said Roberts.

Roberts said the new research also doesn’t mean a cure is imminent.

And without a cure, Roberts said, the condition can drive people to depression or even suicide unless they are able to get used to the noise and dislocate themselves from the emotional stress.

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