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Pathophysiology, diagnosis and treatment of somatosensory tinnitus: a scoping review

Haider, Haula; Hoare, Derek J.; Costa, Raquel FP; Potgieter, Iskra; Kikidis, Dimitris; Lapira, Alec; Nikitas, Christos; Caria, Helena; Cunha, Nuno T; Paco, Joao C

Pathophysiology, diagnosis and treatment of somatosensory tinnitus: a scoping review Thumbnail


Haula Haider

Associate Professor in Hearing Sciences

Raquel FP Costa

Iskra Potgieter

Dimitris Kikidis

Alec Lapira

Christos Nikitas

Helena Caria

Nuno T Cunha

Joao C Paco


Somatosensory tinnitus is a generally agreed subtype of tinnitus that is associated with activation of the somatosensory, somatomotor, and visual-motor systems. A key characteristic of somatosensory tinnitus is that is modulated by physical contact or movement. Although it seems common, its pathophysiology, assessment and treatment are not well defined. We present a scoping review on the pathophysiology, diagnosis, and treatment of somatosensory tinnitus, and identify priority directions for further research.

Methods: Literature searches were conducted in Google Scholar, PubMed, and EMBASE databases. Additional broad hand searches were conducted with the additional terms etiology, diagnose, treatment.

Results: Most evidence on the pathophysiology of somatosensory tinnitus suggests that somatic modulations are the result of altered or cross-modal synaptic activity within the dorsal cochlear nucleus or between the auditory nervous system and other sensory subsystems of central nervous system (e.g., visual or tactile). Presentations of somatosensory tinnitus are varied and evidence for the various approaches to treatment promising but limited.

Discussion and Conclusions: Despite the apparent prevalence of somatosensory tinnitus its underlying neural processes are still not well understood. Necessary involvement of multidisciplinary teams in its diagnosis and treatment has led to a large heterogeneity of approaches whereby tinnitus improvement is often only a secondary effect. Hence there are no evidence-based clinical guidelines, and patient care is empirical rather than research-evidence-based. Somatic testing should receive further attention considering the breath of evidence on the ability of patients to modulate their tinnitus through manouvers. Specific questions for further research and review are indicated.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 27, 2017
Publication Date Apr 28, 2017
Deposit Date Jul 21, 2017
Publicly Available Date Jul 21, 2017
Journal Frontiers in Neuroscience
Print ISSN 1662-4548
Electronic ISSN 1662-453X
Publisher Frontiers Media
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords somatosensation, somatosensory, tinnitus, physical therapy, physiotherapy, cross modal
Public URL
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