Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tinnitus May Be Related to "Phantom Limbs"

Neuron
I've written about tinnitus before; it's one of those fascinating conditions (to me) that I enjoy learning more about. I suffer from tinnitus only intermittently. It tends to happen to me when I am not wearing my hearing aids or when my hearing aids are malfunctioning. However, for some people, tinnitus never goes away. These sufferers have to deal with "phantom" ringing, buzzing, and other annoying sounds in their ears all day, every day.

Now a doctor, Josef P. Rauschecker, has introduced a new way of thinking about tinnitus. According to this article, the doctor says "tinnitus should be thought of as a disorder akin to the 'phantom pain' felt in an amputated limb." When someone loses a limb, sometimes they continue to feel pain signals sent by malfunctioning neurons. It's similar in tinnitus - sufferers who have lost hair cells in their cochlea experience signals from neurons trying to compensate for a loss of signal. Now the doctor and the co-authors of his study, published June 24th in Neuron, are trying to figure out how to correct the problem.

Interestingly, while it may seem to make sense that simply fixing the damaged hair cells would eliminate the problem, the article explains that tinnitus "becomes a problem in the brain's central auditory pathways, which reorganizes itself in response to that damage." As the brain tries to compensate for missing input, it overreaches, leading to the sensation of tinnitus.

Rauschecker seems confident that one day a pill will be developed to eliminate tinnitus. Fingers crossed!

4 comments:

  1. Old News but... deafened have long thought it was the brain compensating for a missing sense...

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  2. There is new research into using powerful magnets aimed at the Auditory Cortex, which can temporarily eliminate tinnitus. I just wrote about it on my own hearing loss blog; hope it can someday provide permanent relief!
    http://nearly-earless.blogspot.com/2010/07/new-sound.html

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  3. Wow i love you blog its awesome nice colors you must have did hard work on your blog. Keep up the good work. Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  4. I suffer from tinnitus only intermittently. It tends to happen to me when I am not wearing my hearing aids or when my hearing aids are malfunctioning. Jenny hunt

    ReplyDelete

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