Tinnitus is largely a mystery, a phantom sound heard in the absence of actual sound. Tinnitus patients “hear” ringing, buzzing or hissing in their ears much like an amputee might “feel” pain in a missing limb. It is a symptom, not a disease, and though exposure to loud noise may cause it, some cases have no apparent trigger.
Existing treatments, meantime, are unreliable, either not working at all or varying greatly in effectiveness for those who report some relief.
But a global research effort involving investigators from the University at Buffalo; Southeast University in Nanjing, China; and Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, have made a major breakthrough that provides new insights into how tinnitus, and the often co-occurring hyperacusis, a condition that causes sounds to be perceived as intolerably loud, might develop and be sustained.