Tinnitus is the perception of sound in the absence of an external physical sound source, for some people it can severely reduce the quality of life. Acoustic residual inhibition (ARI) is a suppression of tinnitus following the cessation of a sound. The present study investigated the effect of ARI on brain activity measured using EEG.
Thirty adult participants (mean age of 58 years) experiencing chronic tinnitus (minimum 2 years) participated. Participants were presented broad band noise at 10 dB above minimum masking level (1 min followed by 4 min of silence, 4 times) counterbalanced with a control treatment of broad band noise at threshold (1 min followed by 4 min of silence, 4 times) while 64-channel EEG was simultaneously recorded. Tinnitus loudness was measured using a 9-point tinnitus loudness rating scale.
The ARI stimulation resulted in a self-reported reduction in tinnitus loudness in 17 of the 30 participants. Tinnitus rating reduced following stimulation but gradually returned to near baseline during 4 min of silence post sound exposure; successive sound exposures resulted in lower loudness ratings. No significant reductions in loudness rating were found with the control stimulation. The EEG showed increases in power spectral density, particularly in the alpha and gamma bands, during ARI compared to the control periods.
These results contribute to the understanding of ARI and tinnitus. We recommend that there be a closer examination of the relationship between onset and offset of sound in both tinnitus and nontinnitus control participants to ascertain if EEG changes seen with ARI relate to tinnitus suppression or general postsound activity.