Tinnitus, the most common auditory disorder, affects about 40 million people in the United States alone, and its incidence is rising due to an aging population and increasing noise exposure. Although several approaches for the alleviation of tinnitus exist, there is as of yet no cure. The present article proposes a testable model for tinnitus that is grounded in recent findings from human imaging and focuses on brain areas in cortex, thalamus, and ventral striatum. Limbic and auditory brain areas are thought to interact at the thalamic level. While a tinnitus signal originates from lesion-induced plasticity of the auditory pathways, it can be tuned out by feedback connections from limbic regions, which block the tinnitus signal from reaching auditory cortex. If the limbic regions are compromised, this " noise-cancellation" mechanism breaks down, and chronic tinnitus results. Hopefully, this model will ultimately enable the development of effective treatment.
ASJC Scopus subject areas