Tinnitus and the Brain: A Review of Functional and Anatomical Magnetic Resonance Imaging Studies

Somayeh Shahsavarani, Rafay Ali Khan, Fatima Tazeena Husain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review



The tinnitus patient population is inherently heterogeneous. Although tinnitus often co-occurs with hearing loss and is more frequent among elderly people, it affects all age groups with varying hearing sensitivity. In addition, tinnitus severity and patients' reaction to tinnitus vary across individuals. Regardless of the metrics used to measure tinnitus handicap, on one end of the severity spectrum are the patients who have managed to habituate to their tinnitus; at the other end are those who are extremely bothered by tinnitus, and often have a confluence of related comorbidities of mood disorders. Understanding the neural correlates of tinnitus while accounting for such variations could benefit clinicians, helping them modify and objectively monitor tinnitus management strategies. Brain imaging, specifically magnetic resonance imaging, is an excellent tool to study the functional and structural properties of the neural networks involved in tinnitus and tinnitus severity.


In this article, we review studies that employ magnetic resonance imaging-based neuroimaging techniques including resting-state functional connectivity, voxel-based morphometry, and diffusion tensor imaging to investigate underlying functional and structural neural correlates of tinnitus to address overarching dimensions of a person's reaction to tinnitus, namely, audition, emotion, and attention.


We discuss findings from brain imaging studies in the context of theories and models proposed for tinnitus generation and persistence.


These studies have revealed tinnitus-related alteration in the auditory, emotion, and attention neural networks. Future research is required to better understand these changes in the neural circuitry based on tinnitus comorbidities and severity, and to refine existing theoretical models.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)896-909
JournalPerspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 31 2019


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