Pathophysiology of subjective tinnitus: Triggers and maintenance

Haúla Faruk Haider*, Tijana Bojić, Sara F. Ribeiro, João Paço, Deborah A. Hall, Agnieszka J. Szczepek

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

72 Citations (Scopus)
76 Downloads (Pure)


Tinnitus is the conscious perception of a sound without a corresponding external acoustic stimulus, usually described as a phantom perception. One of the major challenges for tinnitus research is to understand the pathophysiological mechanisms triggering and maintaining the symptoms, especially for subjective chronic tinnitus. Our objective was to synthesize the published literature in order to provide a comprehensive update on theoretical and experimental advances and to identify further research and clinical directions. We performed literature searches in three electronic databases, complemented by scanning reference lists from relevant reviews in our included records, citation searching of the included articles using Web of Science, and manual searching of the last 6 months of principal otology journals. One-hundred and thirty-two records were included in the review and the information related to peripheral and central mechanisms of tinnitus pathophysiology was collected in order to update on theories and models. A narrative synthesis examined the main themes arising from this information. Tinnitus pathophysiology is complex and multifactorial, involving the auditory and non-auditory systems. Recent theories assume the necessary involvement of extra-auditory brain regions for tinnitus to reach consciousness. Tinnitus engages multiple active dynamic and overlapping networks. We conclude that advancing knowledge concerning the origin and maintenance of specific tinnitus subtypes origin and maintenance mechanisms is of paramount importance for identifying adequate treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number866
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2018


  • auditory system
  • causes
  • central tinnitus
  • idiopathic
  • maintenance
  • pathophysiology
  • peripheral tinnitus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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