Tinnitus: scientists have finally found the cause of these ringing sounds

Tinnitus: scientists have finally found the cause of these ringing sounds

Why do some people experience tinnitus on a daily basis? And what causes this very unpleasant buzzing? A team of scientists seems to have found the cause of this ailment felt by one in 10 French people.

If you suffer from tinnitus, like more than one in 10 French people, perhaps you will be interested in a new study which determines the cause of your disorder. Until now, these ringing, whistling or persistent noises in the ears were well recognized, and evaluated when they were felt, but medicine was not able to detect why we heard them. A study published on November 30 reveals a little more.

Loss of an auditory nerve highlighted

Scientists from the specialized Massachusetts Eye and Ear Institute recruited 201 people who said they had never had tinnitus in their lives for the most part, and 64 who had already suffered from it. However, all of them had hearing tests and had “normal hearing”.

But when scientists measured auditory nerve and brainstem activity, they noticed that tinnitus was linked to auditory nerve damage that conventional hearing tests couldn’t detect. At the same time, brain hyperactivity was recorded in these same participants.

The brain compensates by creating these noises

For Stéphane Maison, physiologist and co-author of the study, there is therefore an important nuance that emerges from this analysis: “Tinnitus can be triggered by auditory nerve loss, including in people with normal hearing, according to our study.”, he specifies.

Thus, faced with this loss of auditory nerve, the brain would act by compensating and increasing the activity of the neurons involved in sound perception. It is this action in response, which would create phantom noises that are sometimes unbearable.

Knowing more about tinnitus allows you to better protect yourself from it

What does this new information about tinnitus give us, especially for those who suffer from it? We asked the question to Dr Hamine Harichane, pediatric ENT in Paris, who mainly sees a preventive advantage.

“We already knew that tinnitus was linked to nerve degeneration, so this is not revolutionary. The novelty here is that the study detected this auditory nerve loss in people outside of common risk factors, and people younger than 65 who did not yet have hearing loss. We can therefore conclude that this diagnosis could anticipate neuronal loss and the onset of tinnitus.

The study, on the other hand, can do nothing to cure and reverse the situation, as tinnitus cannot be cured to date.

But the goal could be to better protect the ears. We never repeat it enough, but hearing is essential. If we now know in advance that this capital is a little eroded, we can make the decision to pay more attention to it, to avoid trauma, to protect ourselves during concerts, etc. We have no treatment to regenerate neuronal damage, but detecting it as early as possible could prevent tinnitus and hearing loss.” perceives our expert.