"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

'Hidden hearing loss' may cause tinnitus: study

December 1, 2023 – Scientists know that tinnitus, or ringing within the ears, affects 10% of adults worldwide. However, they aren't entirely sure what causes the condition.

Traditional belief states that tinnitus occurs in individuals who have already lost their hearing. However, some individuals with tinnitus are still in a position to perform well on standard hearing tests, based on researchers on the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. That's since the tests don't detect lack of the auditory nerve, sometimes called “hidden hearing loss.”

“Our work reconciles the idea that tinnitus can be triggered by loss of the auditory nerve, even in people with normal hearing,” said Stéphane F. Maison, PhD, the lead writer of a brand new study on tinnitus, in a Press release on the study.

Tinnitus is sometimes compared to Phantom limb syndrome, during which people experience pain in limbs they now not have. While the study was published Scientific reports doesn't check with phantom limb syndrome, but to “phantom sounds.”

“In other words, the brain attempts to compensate for hearing loss by increasing its activity, resulting in the perception of a phantom sound, tinnitus. However, until recently, this idea was controversial because some tinnitus patients have normal hearing tests,” the researchers explained within the press release.

The study included 294 adults – 201 who had never reported tinnitus, 64 who had reported transient tinnitus, and 29 who had reported tinnitus lasting 6 months or longer.

All 294 performed normally on a pure-tone test during which subjects raise their hands once they hear beeps to measure the quietest sounds they will detect.

In one other sort of test, electrodes measured responses to clicks within the inner ear, auditory nerve and brain. The second test found decreased auditory nerve response and increased brainstem activity in those that suffered from tinnitus.

Maison, principal investigator at Eaton-Peabody Laboratories at Mass Eye and Ear/Harvard Medical School, called the study “a first step toward our ultimate goal of silencing tinnitus.”

“Aside from the annoyance of persistent ringing or other noises in the ears, tinnitus symptoms are debilitating for many patients, leading to sleep loss, social isolation, anxiety and depression, affecting work performance and significantly reducing their quality of life,” he said in the discharge. “We will only be able to cure tinnitus once we understand the mechanisms underlying its development.”