Fighting noise with noise

Pairing tones with electrical stimulation of the brain may reverse the constant ringing caused by exposure to loud sound

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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Exposure to deafening noise can be, well, deafening. It can also induce incessant ringing in the ears known as tinnitus. But playing tones while pulsing electrical stimulation to the brain could reverse the condition, according to a study on rats published online today (January 12) in Nature.
Image: flickr, gurucrusher/Coty Schwabe
The results are "intriguing," said audiologist linkurl:Richard Tyler; of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, who was not involved in the research. "If this is a valid model of noise-induced tinnitus, then you'd expect widespread benefits to all kinds of people."Tinnitus, which can be induced not just by loud noises, but also head trauma, certain drugs, and even aging, gives sufferers the sensation of ringing in their ears when no such sound actually exists. The sensation is not imagined. The condition has, in fact, been associated with changes to the auditory cortex of the brain, which impact...
N.D. Engineer, et al., "Reversing pathological neural activity using targeted plasticity," Nature, doi:10.1038/nature09656, 2010.

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