When you are exposed to loud noise, it is not just your ears which can be affected. Your somatosensory nerves, i.e. the sensory system which receives and processes touch, in your neck and face are also highly sensitive. Even after your hearing returns to normal, the touch-sensing nerves maintain a high level of activity, and that is partly why you may develop tinnitus, a study shows.
People suffering from tinnitus might often be able to change the volume and pitch of the ringing in their ears by clenching their jaw or moving their head and neck. Tinnitus can also be a reaction to head or neck injuries or even dental work. This shows a clear connection between the touch-sensing nerves and tinnitus, says the lead researcher behind the study, Susan E. Shore, from The Kresge Hearing Research Institute at university of Michigan, USA.
Possible treatment for tinnitus
After exposure to loud noises, the touch-sensing nerves overcompensate for the loss of auditory input. This results in over-activity which the brain interprets as a ringing noise. The noise that many people know as tinnitus.
These findings are important when trying to develop treatments for tinnitus, because it may be possible to provoke the touch-sensing nerves back to their normal activity level. And this may be helpful for the many people who hear the constant ringing in their ears.