Serotonin found to play a role in tinnitus

serotoninRinging in the ears is something most people experience at one time or another. However, there are individuals who have tinnitus, a medical classification of the symptom, that can be quite bothersome and impact their quality of life.

Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) completed a study, finding that common antidepressants may worsen the symptoms of tinnitus.

The sensation of noise when none exists


Tinnitus is the perception of noise or ringing in the ears. It affects about one in five people and is not a sign of an underlying condition. It can be appreciated as a constant buzzing sound that creates a sense of irritation and even severe anxiety.

“Estimates vary, but at least 10 percent of the U.S. population is affected by tinnitus,” said lead author Zheng-Quan Tang, Ph.D., a senior postdoctoral fellow at the OHSU School of Medicine

Anti-depressant medication focuses on the action of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that is thought to play a role in the development of depression and other psychological disorders. A commonly used type of antidepressant called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) works by increasing the amount of serotonin available. It has proven to be quite useful for alleviating symptoms of moderate to severe depression and anxiety.

Looking at affect brain areas

The researchers used mouse models to examine the regions of the brain where sensory integration and tinnitus occur the dorsal cochlear nucleus. It was discovered that the neurons within this region of the brain, called fusiform cells, become hyperactive and hypersensitive when exposed to serotonin.

This finding has great implications for treating depression patients already suffering from tinnitus, as it may worsen the condition.


The researcher’s team is interested in further exploring this connection to find out why the neurons of the brain involved in tinnitus behave in this manner, and whether they can deactivate it in any way. By doing this, the antidepressants may be able to provide their beneficial effects without exacerbating tinnitus.

Related: 7 essential oils for tinnitus: Benefits and how they can treat ringing ears


Author Bio

Devon Andre has been involved in the health and dietary supplement industry for a number of years. Devon has written extensively for Bel Marra Health. He has a Bachelor of Forensic Science from the University of Windsor, and went on to complete a Juris Doctor from the University of Pittsburgh. Devon is keenly aware of trends and new developments in the area of health and wellness. He embraces an active lifestyle combining diet, exercise and healthy choices. By working to inform readers of the options available to them, he hopes to improve their health and quality of life.


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