Tinnitus pp 83-95 | Cite as

The Cochlea and the Auditory Nerve as a Primary Source of Tinnitus

Part of the Springer Handbook of Auditory Research book series (SHAR, volume 44)


Tinnitus, the perception of sound in the absence of external noise, degrades the quality of life, extending from irritability, stress, and anxiety to severe depression and suicide. The increase in human life span in industrialized countries calls for the development of new therapies for tinnitus. Indeed, tinnitus is most often associated with presbycusis (or age-related hearing loss) and noise-induced hearing loss. A distribution histogram shows that almost 12% of men between the ages of 65 and 74 experience tinnitus (see Fig. 1A in Lockwood et al., 2002). Although hearing aids may restore some extend hearing capabilities, they are of little help for tinnitus, which is the major complaint of presbycusis patients. Yet, the exposure of the population to multiple loud noise sources (at work or in public places) leads to an early onset of hearing disorders such as tinnitus. For example, 76% of the disc jockeys who have worked in nightclubs 3 nights a week for 6 years suffer from tinnitus (Potier et al., 2009). However, the highly heterogeneous etiology of tinnitus precludes the generation of a unique “universal” animal model of tinnitus and raises a major biomedical challenge. In addition to presbycusis and noise-induced hearing loss, tinnitus is associated with Ménière’s disease. Other, less frequent origins include exposure to ototoxic drugs (antibiotics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and chemotherapeutic agents), autoimmune processes, or infectious diseases (Nicolas-Puel et al., 2002). Extremely rare is somatic tinnitus triggered by voluntary or external manipulations of the jaw, movements of the eyes, or pressure applied to head and neck regions (Shore et al., 2007). Finally, the identification of tinnitus generator sites is crucial to (1) decipher the cellular and molecular tinnitus mechanisms and (2) engineer future therapies. Although several studies report that changes in central auditory structures cause tinnitus (for review see Roberts et al., 2010), others argue for peripheral (i.e., cochlea and auditory nerve) origin (Guitton et al., 2003, 2005; Ruel et al., 2008a). This chapter proposes that the auditory nerve is a potential tinnitus generator through recruitment of N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors at the first auditory synapse. In addition, the review proposes alternative mechanisms for tinnitus generation within the cochlea as well as future therapies that can be envisioned to treat tinnitus.


NMDA Receptor Auditory Nerve Spiral Ganglion Neuron Round Window Membrane Lateral Superior Olive 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Inserm U1051, Institut des Neurosciences de Montpellier, Hôpital Saint EloiMontpellier cedex 5France

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