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Medical Science Shows Insight into Noisy Eyeballs and Tinnitus

An awesome article in Scientific American Mind once told a story about a mystery that you may have never known needed to be solved: eyeballs that are noisy. Really.

It all started when Scientific American Mind journalist R. Douglas Fields met neuroscientist Josef Rauschecker for drinks during a Society for Neuroscience meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. Fields was having a rather unique problem: when he moved his eyes in any direction he would hear an odd, grating sound that was driving him crazy. What could be causing it?!

Being the kind of person who loves a mystery, Rauschecker suggested that he go and have his serotonin tested. Serotonin is one of many chemicals in the brain. It acts as a neurotransmitter, moving things in from one cortex to another. What does this have to do with noisy eyeballs? Rauschecker was conducting research on a condition known as tinnitus, which is a persistent buzzing or ringing that the sufferer hears in one or both ears. He suspected that the two mysterious conditions could have something to do with one another.

Patients who had tinnitus in his study had received brain scans, and those showed that their nucleus accumbens, which controls the amount of serotonin that is released into the brain, were smaller than the average person. He believed that this impacted some people’s ability to shut out certain noises, and could be responsible for both of these sounds.

If he is right, tinnitus could potentially be treated with SSRI inhibitors, a form of medication currently used to treat anxiety and depression. Or, in the case of the journalist, noisy eyeballs. Research is ongoing about how SSRI drugs, and their application in cases of ringing ears not caused by physical damage (though it could potentially apply there, as well).

Until then, the millions of people in America who are experiencing tinnitus will unfortunately have to live with the condition. There is currently no known cure, and treatment varies in effectiveness. Still, there is hope for a less noisy future ahead.

Find out more at Hearing Doctors.