Auditory experience, for a certain duration, is a prerequisite for tinnitus: lessons from subjects with unilateral tinnitus in the better-hearing ear

Jeon Mi Lee, Yoonjoong Kim, Jeong Yeon Ji, Ja Won Koo, Jae Jin Song

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Tinnitus has traditionally been considered an otologic disorder; however, recent advances in auditory neuroscience have shifted investigations toward the brain. The Bayesian brain model explains tinnitus as an auditory phantom percept. According to the model, the brain works to reduce environmental uncertainty, and thus the absence of auditory information due to hearing loss may cause auditory phantom percepts, i.e., tinnitus. As in animal studies, our recent human observational study revealed the absence of ipsilesional tinnitus in subjects with congenital single-sided deafness, suggesting that auditory experience is a prerequisite for the generation of tinnitus. Prompted by anecdotal cases, we hypothesized that subjects with acquired hearing loss would not develop tinnitus if their duration of auditory experience was not sufficiently long. We retrospectively enrolled 22 subjects with acquired asymmetric hearing loss and unilateral tinnitus in better ear (TBE). Twenty-two hearing threshold-matched controls with tinnitus in worse ear (TWE) were selected from our database of tinnitus patients. All 22 TBE subjects reported that their acquired hearing loss developed before the age of 20, and the reported duration of auditory deprivation in the ear without tinnitus in the TBE group was significantly longer than that of the TWE group. In other words, the TBE group with limited auditory experience in the worse ear did not develop tinnitus in the worse ear while subjects with enough auditory experiences in the worse ear developed ipsilesional tinnitus in the TWE group. These preliminary results support our hypothesis that both auditory experience itself, and an individually variable critical duration of auditory deprivation, are prerequisites for the generation of tinnitus.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTinnitus - An Interdisciplinary Approach Towards Individualized Treatment
Subtitle of host publicationFrom Heterogeneity to Personalized Medicine
EditorsWinfried Schlee, Berthold Langguth, Tobias Kleinjung, Sven Vanneste, Sven Vanneste, Dirk De Ridder
PublisherElsevier B.V.
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)9780128215869
StatePublished - Jan 2021

Publication series

NameProgress in Brain Research
ISSN (Print)0079-6123
ISSN (Electronic)1875-7855


  • Acquired hearing loss
  • Asymmetric hearing loss
  • Auditory phantom
  • Bayes
  • Tinnitus


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