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24.06.2015

Buzzing in ear that comes and goes, causes of ringing in the ears and hearing loss - .

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The Brain: "Ringing in the Ears" Actually Goes Much Deeper Than ThatResearch on tinnitus has shown that it's rooted in the very way we process and understand sound. Today tinnitus continues to resist medicine’s best efforts, despite being one of the more common medical disorders.
When Schlee compared people who suffer a lot of distress from tinnitus with those who are not much bothered by it, he found that the more distress people felt, the stronger the flow of signals out of the front and back of the brain and into the temporal cortex. Such complexity may explain why so many different tinnitus treatments work, but only modestly: Each attacks just one part of the tinnitus network. The scientists cannot say for sure how the filtered music soothed their patients, but they speculate that the incoming signals encouraged the tone map to change its structure. Clearly the auditory cortex is just an early stop on the journey that sound takes from the outside world to our awareness.
Steven Cheung and Paul Larson, two doctors at the University of California, San Francisco, set out to reproduce Lowry’s experience. Once signals travel from the ear to the auditory cortex, caudate, and putamen, they eventually make their way to regions of the brain that carry out more sophisticated sound information processing: connecting the sounds with memories, interpreting their meaning, giving them emotional significance.
Some were convinced it was caused by wind that got trapped inside the ear and swirled around endlessly, so they tried to liberate the wind by drilling a hole into the bones around the ear or using a silver tube to suck air out of the ear canal.
Surveys show that between 5 and 15 percent of people say they have heard some kind of phantom noise for six months or more; some 1 to 3 percent say tinnitus lowers their quality of life. The vibrations cause nerve hairs in the inner ear to shiver, and that triggers electric signals that travel along the auditory nerve into the brain. Things may start to go awry when toxic drugs, loud noises, or even whiplash cause damage to the nerve hairs in the ears.
Neuroscientists, using increasingly sophisticated brain scans, are finding that changes ripple out across the entire brain.
This pattern suggests that the network Schlee discovered is important for the full experience of tinnitus.
Christo Pantev of the University of Münster in Germany and his colleagues, for example, have brought some relief to people with tinnitus by rewiring their tone map. Some neurons in the auditory cortex extend branches down to the brain stem, where they link to a pair of regions called the caudate nucleus and putamen.


The experience left him with partial hearing loss and a high-pitched ringing in his ears that plagued him for 40 years.
They took advantage of the fact that some people with Parkinson’s disease get electrodes surgically implanted in their brain stem to control their symptoms.
It is precisely these regions that Schlee and his colleagues noted were behaving strangely in people with tinnitus. Traffic, iPods, and other features of modern life may cause more hearing damage, hence more tinnitus.
Tinnitus can force people to withdraw from their social life, make them depressed, and give them insomnia.
Some have people listen to certain sounds, others apply magnetic pulses to the brain and even implant electrodes in the brain stem.
They also signal back down the line, reaching out to neighboring neurons tuned to nearby frequencies, exciting some and muzzling others.
Winfried Schlee of the University of Konstanz in Germany and his colleagues have been making some of the most detailed studies of tinnitus ever, using a method called magnetoencephalography (MEG, for short). Tinnitus, in other words, extends beyond the ear, beyond a hearing-specialized part of the brain, beyond even any single piece of neural real estate. To do so, they edited recordings of music, filtering out the frequencies of the ringing in the ears of their patients, who then listened to the filtered music an average of 12 hours per week.
He argues that it is only when signals reach this large-scale network that we become conscious of sounds, and it is only at this stage that tinnitus starts to cause people real torment. Each nerve hair is tuned to a particular frequency of sound and excites only certain neurons in the auditory cortex.
These feedback controls allow us to sift through incoming sounds for the most important information, so that we are not overwhelmed by meaningless noise.
They take advantage of the fact that every time neurons send each other signals, their electric current creates a tiny magnetic field.
Pantev and his collaborators found that their patients’ tinnitus significantly eased. In 2004 Louis Lowry, an ear-nose-and-throat doctor at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, discovered that the caudate and the putamen play an important role in tinnitus by studying an unusual patient—himself.


Cheung and Larson engaged five patients preparing to receive an implant who also suffered from tinnitus. Schlee’s results suggest that the higher regions of the brain send their own feedback to the auditory cortex, amplifying its false signals. Recent research suggests why: Tinnitus is a lot more complicated than just a ringing in the ears.
MEG allows scientists to detect such changing patterns of activity in the brain 100 times per second.Schlee and his colleagues find widespread differences in the brains of people with tinnitus and those without it. They also found that the neurons tuned to the tinnitus frequency in the auditory cortex became less active. Schlee’s model of tinnitus and consciousness could explain some curious observations. Cheung and Larson reported that the tinnitus became much fainter in four of the five patients. The Roman writer Pliny the Elder suggested that earthworms boiled in goose grease be put in the ear. That is why tinnitus often doesn’t go away when people get their auditory nerve surgically cut. Schlee has determined that his tinnitus-stricken subjects have a more synchronized pattern of signals coming out of regions in the front and the back of the brain.
It may be that distractions deprive the errant signals from the auditory cortex of the attention they need to cause real distress. Counseling, for example, can make people better aware of the sounds they experience by explaining the brain process that may underlie the disorder, so they can consciously reduce their distress.



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