Researchers have found that tinnitus, a chronic ringing or buzzing in the ears, is linked to changes in the brain, that cause it to stay more attentive and less at rest.
Although ringing in the ears condition has eluded medical treatment and scientific understanding, the finding provides patients with validation of their experiences and hope for future treatment options.
Researchers at University of Illinois in the US using functional MRI to look for patterns across brain function and structure, and found that tinnitus is, in fact, in the hearers’ heads — in a region of the brain called the precuneus, to be precise.
The precuneus is connected to two inversely related networks in the brain: the dorsal attention network, which is active when something holds a person’s attention and the default mode network, which are the background functions of the brain when the person is at rest and not thinking of anything in particular.
Researchers found that, in patients with chronic tinnitus, the precuneus is more connected to the dorsal attention network and less connected to the default mode network.
Additionally, as severity of the tinnitus increased,so did the observed effects on the neural networks. “Tinnitus is invisible.
It cannot be measured by any device we have, the way we can measure diabetes or hypertension,” said Fatima Husain , a professor at University of Illinois.
“So you can have this constant sound in your head, but nobody else can hear it and they may not believe you. They may think it’s all in your imagination. Medically, we can only manage some symptoms, not cure it, because we do not understand what is causing it,” she added.
The research implies that tinnitus patients are not truly at rest, even when resting. This could explain why many report being tired more often, they said. ”
Additionally, their attention may be engaged more with their tinnitus than necessary, and that may lessen their attention to other things. If you have bothersome tinnitus,this may be why you have concentration issues,” Hussain said.