Updated June 21, 2013
According to this ScienceDaily article on a new study about tinnitus, when a hair cell is damaged or dies, the neurons usually receiving input from it keep firing anyway, even though there’s no data coming in. They “become more excitable and fire spontaneously,” as if they have a quota to fill. Thus the constant ringing.
The study in question showed that “tinnitus is correlated with lower levels of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid).” GABA supplements are available over the counter, but this article implies that drugs to raise GABA in humans are not available, which is confusing.
Anyway, I’ve put it on my list of things to try. Update: See my March 24, 2013 post for results of my experiments with this.
As to my own experience with tinnitus, I can only offer these observations:
- I believe I first noticed it when I was getting off antidepressants. They $*&@ things up in all sorts of ways, so it’s not surprising. In fact, I bet they’re responsible for the Black Plague, cellulite, and the disappearance of D.B. Cooper.
- I noticed a reduction in hearing after a three-day car drive across the country in a compact car with lousy sound insulation.
- It waxes and wanes, but I haven’t found a pattern.
- It is getting slowly but gradually worse.
- Occasionally it cuts out entirely for a few seconds.
- Iron definitely makes it worse.