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Overactive nerves in head and neck may account for 'ringing in the ears'
Date:1/10/2008

Do your ears ring after a loud concert" Nerves that sense touch in your face and neck may be behind the racket in your brain, University of Michigan researchers say.

Touch-sensing nerve cells step up their activity in the brain after hearing cells are damaged, a study by U-M Kresge Hearing Research Institute scientists shows. Hyperactivity of these touch-sensing neurons likely plays an important role in tinnitus, often called ringing in the ears. The study, now online in the European Journal of Neuroscience, will appear in the journals first January issue.

The research findings were made in animals, but they suggest that available treatments such as acupuncture, if used to target nerves in the head and neck, may provide relief for some people plagued by tinnitus, says Susan E. Shore, Ph.D., lead author of the study and research professor in the Department of Otolaryngology and the Kresge Hearing Research Institute at the U-M Medical School.

People with tinnitus sense ringing or other sounds in their ears or head when there is no outside source. Whether its mild and intermittent or chronic and severe, tinnitus affects about one in 10 people. An estimated 13 million people in Western Europe and the United States seek medical advice for it. It is a growing problem for war veterans. Since 2000, the number of veterans receiving service-connected disability for tinnitus has increased by at least 18 percent each year, according to the American Tinnitus Association.

Increasing numbers of baby boomers are also finding that when they cant hear as well as they used to, tinnitus seems to move in. The condition commonly occurs with hearing loss, but also after head or neck trauma such as whiplash or dental work.

Tinnitus varies in individuals from a faint, high-pitched tone to whooshing ocean waves to annoying cricket-like chirping or screeching brakes. For some, it is constant and debilitating.

Some
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Contact: Anne Rueter
arueter@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
Source:Eurekalert  

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