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Tinnitus and underlying brain mechanisms

Galazyuk, Alexander V.a; Wenstrup, Jeffrey J.a; Hamid, Mohamed A.a,b

Current Opinion in Otolaryngology & Head and Neck Surgery: October 2012 - Volume 20 - Issue 5 - p 409–415
doi: 10.1097/MOO.0b013e3283577b81
HEARING SCIENCE AND VESTIBULAR MEDICINE: Edited by Rodney C. Diaz and Mohamed A. Hamid

Purpose of review Tinnitus is the sensation of hearing a sound when no external auditory stimulus is present. Most individuals experience tinnitus for brief, unobtrusive periods. However, chronic sensation of tinnitus affects approximately 17% (44 million people) of the general US population. Tinnitus, usually a benign symptom, can be constant, loud and annoying to the point that it causes significant emotional distress, poor sleep, less efficient activities of daily living, anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation/attempts. Tinnitus remains a major challenge to physicians because its pathophysiology is poorly understood and there are few management options to offer to patients. The purpose of this article is to describe the current understanding of central neural mechanisms in tinnitus and to summarize recent developments in clinical approaches to tinnitus patients.

Recent findings Recently developed animal models of tinnitus provide the possibility to determine neuronal mechanisms of tinnitus generation and to test the effects of various treatments. The latest research using animal models has identified a number of abnormal changes, in both auditory and nonauditory brain regions, that underlie tinnitus. Furthermore this research sheds light on cellular mechanisms that are responsible for development of these abnormal changes.

Summary Tinnitus remains a challenging disorder for patients, physicians, audiologists and scientists studying tinnitus-related brain changes. This article reviews recent findings of brain changes in animal models associated with tinnitus and a brief review of clinical approach to tinnitus patients.

aDepartment of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Northeast Ohio Medical University, Rootstown

bCleveland Hearing and Balance Center, Lyndhurst, Ohio, USA

Correspondence to Alexander V. Galazyuk, PhD, Associate Professor, Northeastern Ohio Universities, College of Medicine, Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, 4209 State Route 44, Rootstown, OH 44272, USA. Tel: +1 330 325 6640; fax: +1 330 325 5916; e-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.