Why Are My Ears Ringing? Its Driving Me Crazy!

Why Are My Ears Ringing? Its Driving Me Crazy!

According to neuro.psychiatryonline.org, as many as 48% of patients with late-stage neuro-Lyme disease may develop hyperacusis, more commonly known as “tinnitus”.

Lyme disease patients can experience an extreme sensitivity to sound, also known as auditory hyperacusis. In some patients it is limited to louder sounds, but in the more severe cases “ordinary” sounds can be very debilitating. The impact can be felt throughout the body, and this condition can affect every aspect of daily living.

“Patients can experience heightened awareness and an inability to tolerate conversation, running water, page turning, the humming of electronic devices, other people’s breathing, etc. These normal everyday sounds become painful and unbearable, and as a result the individual’s ability to leave the home is greatly limited. Patients may also experience an increased startle response and an “electric shock” type feeling.

Sounds can also induce dizziness, and this is called Tullio’s phenomenon. According to Jenifer Nields, MD, “This peculiar short-circuiting of the inner ear’s auditory and vestibular functions is known as the Tullio phenomenon. This phenomenon has been deemed pathognomonic for syphilis,  but, as it appears, can occur in Lyme disease as well , and thus provides one more example of the “new great imitator,” Lyme disease, imitating the old “great imitator,” syphilis.

Well now we have some good news!

“Breakthrough Medical Digest reports on a newly developed non-invasive procedure that allows medical practitioners to pinpoint the area in the brain causing the tinnitus:

“Until now, we had no way of pinpointing the specific location of tinnitus in the brain,” says study co-author Michael D. Seidman, M.D., F.A.C.S., director of the Division of Otologic/Neurotolgic Surgery in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery at Henry Ford Hospital.

This imaging technique, magnetoencephalography (MEG), can determine the site of perception of tinnitus in the brain, which could in turn allow physicians to target the area with electrical or chemical therapies to lessen symptoms, according to study results being presented Saturday, Oct. 3 at the American Academy of OtolaryngologyHead & Neck Surgery Foundation Annual Meeting & OTO EXPO.

“Since MEG can detect brain activity occurring at each instant in time, we are able to detect brain activity involved in the network or flow of information across the brain over a 10-minute time interval,” explains co-author Susan M. Bowyer, Ph.D. bioscientific senior researcher, Department of Neurology at Henry Ford Hospital. “Using MEG, we can actually see the areas in the brain that are generating the patient’s tinnitus, which allows us to target it and treat it.”

Imaging techniques currently used to study tinnitus in the brain PET and MRI provide a general location but are not successful at determining the specific site in the brain that is generating tinnitus symptoms.

MEG, by comparison, measures the very small magnetic fields generated by intracellular electrical currents in the neurons of the brain. Only 20 sites in the U.S., including Henry Ford, are equipped with a MEG scanner. MEG is presently used at these sites for pre-surgical brain mapping for patients undergoing surgery for brain tumor removal or Epilepsy treatment.

“With PET and MRI, most of the auditory cortex of the brain lights up with activity during imaging.

MEG, however, is a much more sophisticated machine and it can identify a specific tone or topic point, so only a small area in the brain lights up. It’s like having the lights on in only the city of Detroit, compared to having the lights on in the entire state of Michigan,” explains Dr. Seidman, director of the Otolaryngology Research Laboratory and co-director of the Tinnitus Center at Henry Ford.”

This news should give some of the 50 million sufferers of tinnitus hope for the very first time.

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