From: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Published August 25, 2017 10:00 AM

Ringing in ears keeps brain more at attention, less at rest, study finds

Tinnitus, a chronic ringing or buzzing in the ears, has eluded medical treatment and scientific understanding. A new study by University of Illinois researchers found that chronic tinnitus is associated with changes in certain networks in the brain, and furthermore, those changes cause the brain to stay more at attention and less at rest.

The finding provides patients with validation of their experiences and hope for future treatment options.

“Tinnitus is invisible. It cannot be measured by any device we have, the way we can measure diabetes or hypertension,” said study leader Fatima Husain, a professor of speech and hearing science at the University of Illinois. “So you can have this constant sound in your head, but nobody else can hear it and they may not believe you. They may think it’s all in your imagination. Medically, we can only manage some symptoms, not cure it, because we don’t understand what’s causing it.”

One factor that has complicated tinnitus research is the variability in the patient population. There are a lot of variables – for example, duration, cause, severity, concurrent hearing loss, age, type of sound, which ear and more – which have led to inconsistent study results.

Read more at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Image: Neuroscience graduate student Sara Schmidt, left, and speech and hearing science professor Fatima Husain conducted a study that found that tinnitus patients have differences in the region of the brain called the precuneus, which cause the brain to stay more at attention and be less at rest. (Credit: Photo by Joyce Seay-Knoblauch)

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