Lab Rat Ears are Ringing: New Tinnitus Research May Aid Treatment

Did you know that one in five people suffers from tinnitus? Next time you’re in a room with five or more people, it’s possible that at least one of them could be hearing a ringing in their ears at that very moment.

Despite being extremely common, tinnitus is still poorly understood and difficult to treat. Tinnitus is a condition that causes ringing (or clicking, buzzing, or other sounds) in the ears. This can sometimes be accompanied by ear pain or a feeling of stuffiness in the ears.

Rather than being its own disorder, tinnitus may instead be a symptom of anything from trauma to TMJ to loud music, or a variety of other causes. This means that without knowing the underlying cause, tinnitus can be difficult or even impossible to treat. This is frustrating for medical health professionals and tinnitus sufferers both, because tinnitus can affect everything from concentration to memory, often impacting sufferers’ day-to-day lives.

New Study Tracks Tinnitus in Rats

Even though tinnitus is a common problem, an objective test to measure tinnitus does not currently exist. This makes it extremely difficult for doctors to diagnose the severity of tinnitus in patients when all they can rely on is the patient’s subjective account of their experiences.

Lab rats could help diagnose tinnitus

A team of researchers from Wayne State University believe they have taken the first steps to resolving this problem. Previous attempts to train animals for tinnitus research have struggled with obstacles, but the Wayne State University researchers were able to overcome these obstacles in their recent work.

In the study, rats were trained to lick different spouts when they heard different sounds, and stop when they heard nothing. This method was simple enough that rats could be trained in just two weeks, but specific enough that researchers were able to gather information on which rats experienced tinnitus, how frequently and for how long, and even identify the pitch of the ringing.

This new breakthrough allows scientists to identify and classify tinnitus in rats much more specifically than ever before. In turn, this will enable researchers to test treatments, and even perform chemical and electronic tests on brain activity to allow the creation of objective tests to identify and classify tinnitus.

Tinnitus and TMJ

Tinnitus can have a variety of causes. One trigger for tinnitus is TMJ. People with TMJ experience misalignment, pain, or damage to the temporomandibular joint, which happens to be located directly adjacent to the ear. This means that often, issues with the jaw manifest as issues with hearing.

If you’ve been experiencing tinnitus, it’s possible that you might have TMJ. TMJ symptoms can sometimes be difficult to spot, but if you experience jaw pain, tension headaches or migraines, numbness in the fingers, bruxism, or other associated symptoms in San Diego, you should speak to an experienced dentist like Dr. Rod Strober to see if you may have TMJ.

If you suspect you might have TMJ, call (619) 299-5925 or contact us online to make an appointment.