Uncovering the Molecular Mechanisms of Tinnitus

By: Elaine Vitone

As recently as 20 years ago, tinnitus – a ringing, buzzing, hissing, or other noise that afflicts people who have been exposed to loud sounds – was thought to be an affliction of the ear, but imaging studies eventually proved its source is in the brain. 

Recently, University of Pittsburgh investigator Thanos Tzounopoulos, an expert in brain plasticity, uncovered the molecular mechanisms of this long-misunderstood condition, now the most common service-associated disability for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: When hearing is lost, the central nervous system tries to adapt and maintain a certain level of activity, filling the void with these phantom sounds.

This Pitt Medcast was inspired by “Static,” a feature story from the Winter 2011 issue of Pitt Med magazine. Special thanks to the Pittsburgh-based band Onodrim for the music.