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Tinnitus Studies: How Tinnitus Impacts The Structure of the Brain


When it comes to understanding and managing tinnitus, researchers are still learning what causes the phantom sound that millions of people hear. However, a study titled, “Structural Brain Changes in Tinnitus” helps to illuminate the role of the brain when it comes to perceiving tinnitus.

Reading through the study can be dense going, as it is written for fellow scholars and uses exact language. So, to help you learn what these researchers uncovered as they scanned the brains of people with tinnitus, our doctors of audiology have broken down how this study found that tinnitus impacts the structure of the brain.

Changes In The Subcallosal Area Allow Tinnitus Perception

One of the significant points the researcher made in the study was that everyone has the ability to hear tinnitus, but our brain generally filters out the sound. This fact isn’t entirely surprising since many people will experience temporary tinnitus which will go away after a few minutes to a couple of days at best. However, the researchers have hypothesized that the subcallosal region is the specific part of our brains which is responsible for stopping us from actively perceiving tinnitus.

They came to this hypothesis when the researchers examined the MRI scans of the brains of those with tinnitus. In the scans, there was a clear reduction of gray matter in the subcallosal region. This reduction limited the brain’s ability to process and ignore tinnitus.

What exactly triggered this change is still being speculated on by scientists. In the study, the scholars mentioned that hearing loss is a possible culprit. However, this clearly isn’t the only answer, considering that there are those with tinnitus who don’t have hearing loss.

Tinnitus Activity In Brain Develops Negative Emotion Association In Amygdala

Another interesting point raised by the study was why tinnitus has such a negative emotional impact on those who have moderate-to-severe tinnitus. Since the subcallosal region was no longer able to moderate and process the tinnitus, other regions of the brain stepped in. Namely, the medial geniculate nucleus (MGN), which is part of the auditory system, becomes more active in relaying tinnitus signals.

As the MGN relays the tinnitus perception, it uses the amygdala to help process the sound. Your amygdala is the part of your brain which is responsible for detecting, processing, and reacting to emotional stimuli like fear. With the amygdala processing the tinnitus signal, the scientists posited that this is why sufferers of tinnitus often struggle with negative emotions such as anxiety, stress, and depression. However, your tinnitus can be managed so you can overcome the triggering of the amygdala.  

Find Tinnitus Management Help At Hearing & Balance Doctors

While the researchers may not know exactly what causes tinnitus, our doctors of audiology have been able to help many people manage their tinnitus so that it no longer directly impacts their daily lives. Some of the ways our audiologists can help you are:

  • Hearing test – A hearing test is part of any tinnitus management plan. It is important for our doctors of audiology to rule out hearing loss as a potential co-issue. If you do have hearing loss along with your tinnitus, it is important for our audiologists to make sure you have that taken care of as well as your tinnitus.
  • Hearing aid fitting – If you have tinnitus and hearing loss, hearing aids are a natural option. However, even without hearing loss, hearing aids can be a great tool to help you manage your tinnitus, as the hearing aids can come with tinnitus support. If you do choose to use hearing aids as your tinnitus management tool, our audiologists will help you choose hearing aids which have the tinnitus support tools you need.
  • Tinnitus retraining therapy – When you undergo tinnitus retraining therapy, our hearing specialists will work with you to retrain your brain to process tinnitus. With this retraining, your brain should be able to relearn how to ignore the phantom sound.   

To have our doctors of audiology help with managing your tinnitus, contact us to set up an appointment today.

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