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Tinnitus & Chronic Pain

October 8, 2015

The common roots of chronic pain and tinnitus.



New insights in chronic suffering. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Many people with hearing loss experience ringing in the ears, or tinnitus—a high-pitched sound that won’t go away. Neuroscientist Josef Rauschecker at Georgetown University Medical Center studies tinnitus and has been working with scientists at the Technical University of Munich who are studying chronic pain. In the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, they report both conditions stem from a dysfunction in the same part of the brain.

JOSEF RAUSCHECKER (Georgetown University Medical Center):

It’s really converging now, from two different fields, totally independent findings, that kind of converge on the same brain structures.


He says the structures form a circuit that tunes out negative signals, and in both tinnitus and chronic pain sufferers, it stops working effectively. The work points to a new avenue of research into potential treatments for both conditions. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.