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Br Med Bull. 2002;63:195-212.

Mechanisms of tinnitus.

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Audiology Department, Addenbrooke's Hospital, and Centre for the Neural Basis of Hearing, Physiological Laboratory, University of Cambridge, UK.


The generation of tinnitus is a topic of much scientific enquiry. This chapter reviews possible mechanisms of tinnitus, whilst noting that the heterogeneity observed within the human population with distressing tinnitus means that there may be many different mechanisms by which tinnitus can occur. Indeed, multiple mechanisms may be at work within one individual. The role of the cochlea in tinnitus is considered, and in particular the concept of discordant damage between inner and outer hair cells is described. Biochemical models of tinnitus pertaining to the cochlea and the central auditory pathway are considered. Potential mechanisms for tinnitus within the auditory brain are reviewed, including important work on synchronised spontaneous activity in the cochlear nerve. Whilst the number of possible mechanisms of tinnitus within the auditory system is considerable, the identification of the physiological substrates underlying tinnitus is a crucial element in the design of novel and effective therapies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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