Jonathan Webb, for BBC News:
In many cases it begins with partial hearing loss, sometimes due to loud noise wearing out the hair cells that convert sound waves into neural signals, inside the inner ear. The brain adjusts to that loss of input by boosting certain types of activity, creating the impression of a noise that nobody else can hear.
Some earlier work has also suggested that a widespread network is involved in tinnitus, including brain areas outside those “auditory” sections that we know are involved in hearing. But this is the first time the abnormal activity of that network has been plotted in such detail.
I have tinnitus. Sometimes it’s quiet, and sometimes it’s distractingly loud. But the one thing that always makes it worse: thinking about it. Whatever advances research can make against this affliction, I welcome them.