Recent studies suggest that tinnitus — a ringing or similar sensation in the ears — is caused by a rewiring of nerves in the auditory cortex (see drawing). These nerves no longer respond to intended frequencies but do become sensitive to neighboring frequencies, which leads to tinnitus.

Researchers from Germany “notched” music so it contained no energy in the same frequency range as the individual’s tinnitus frequency.

First, the details.

  • 23 patients with chronic, tonal tinnitus were assigned to a treatment group for 12 years.
    • Notched music treatment
    • Placebo music treatment
    • No treatment
  • Neither the researchers nor patients knew the treatment given — double blind.

And, the results.

  • Listening to notched music was associated with significantly reduced subjective tinnitus loudness.
  • Reduced activity in auditory cortex areas corresponding to the tinnitus frequency compared to patients who received placebo notched music treatment.
  • No changes in tinnitus loudness in either the placebo group or the no-treatment group.

The bottom line?

It’s an enjoyable, low-cost, custom-tailored treatment.

The authors concluded that notched music treatment has the potential to reverse maladaptive auditory cortex reorganization.

1/3/10 20:25 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.