Ringing in ears may have deeper source

Tinnitus results from brain’s effort to compensate for hearing loss, a study finds

4:59pm, September 20, 2011

The high-pitched ringing, squealing, hissing, clicking, roaring, buzzing or whistling in the ears that can drive tinnitus sufferers crazy may be a by-product of the brain turning up the volume to cope with subtle hearing loss, a new study suggests. The results, published in the Sept. 21 Journal of Neuroscience, may help scientists understand how the condition arises.

Tinnitus is clearly a disorder of the brain, not the ear, says study coauthor Roland Schaette of the University College London Ear Institute. One convincing piece of evidence: Past attempts to cure the condition by severing the auditory nerve in desperate patients left people completely deaf to the outside world — but didn’t silence the ringing. How the brain creates the maddeningly persistent phantom noise remains a mystery.

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