Our Research Lab

Neural Bases of Tinnitus Across the Lifespan

Tinnitus has been defined as the perceived sensation of sound in the absence of an external source. The prevalence of tinnitus in the US population is ~ 25 million (~15% population), with ~ 20 million having burdensome, chronic tinnitus and ~ 2 million having severe and disabling tinnitus. The estimated annual cost of tinnitus to society is $26 billion USD.

Tinnitus management often prescribes the use of sound stimulation through personal ear-level devices (e.g., hearing aids or sound generators) in combination with counseling or cognitive behavioral therapy. Effectiveness of such management strategies is typically assessed using subjective questionnaires that evaluate changes in various emotional, physical and social factors that have been associated with tinnitus. There is little known about whether these management strategies, specifically the use of different sound stimuli, lead to objective changes in central auditory function.


Tinnitus “loudness meter” used to characterize instantaneous perceived loudness of tinnitus.

The present study evaluated changes in tinnitus perception during different types of sound stimulation while simultaneously measuring neural oscillations via EEG; an objective marker thought to differentiate those with tinnitus from normal controls. Behavioral indices of tinnitus loudness indicated significant reduction in tinnitus with all sound stimulation. Acute modulation of tinnitus, however, was not reflected in a change in neural oscillations during sound-induced tinnitus inhibition. Interestingly, there was a significant and substantially different pattern or oscillatory activity between age and hearing sensitivity matched groups with and without tinnitus.

Tinnitus Difference in neural activity between tinnitus and control subjects.

This work continues as we try to better understand tinnitus, the consequences of tinnitus, and possible treatments for tinnitus in the aging population, where tinnitus prevalence is the highest.

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