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Tinnitus has a complex etiology that involves auditory and non-auditory factors and may be accompanied by hyperacusis, anxiety and cognitive changes. Thus far, investigations of the interrelationship between tinnitus and auditory and non-auditory impairment have yielded conflicting results. To further address this issue, we noise exposed rats and assessed them for tinnitus using a gap detection behavioral paradigm combined with statistically-driven analysis to diagnose tinnitus in individual rats. We also tested rats for hearing detection, responsivity, and loss using prepulse inhibition and auditory brainstem response, and for spatial cognition and anxiety using Morris water maze and elevated plus maze. We found that our tinnitus diagnosis method reliably separated noise-exposed rats into tinnitus(+) and tinnitus(−) groups and detected no evidence of tinnitus in tinnitus(−) and control rats. In addition, the tinnitus(+) group demonstrated enhanced startle amplitude, indicating hyperacusis-like behavior. Despite these results, neither tinnitus, hyperacusis nor hearing loss yielded any significant effects on spatial learning and memory or anxiety, though a majority of rats with the highest anxiety levels had tinnitus. These findings showed that we were able to develop a clinically relevant tinnitus(+) group and that our diagnosis method is sound. At the same time, like clinical studies, we found that tinnitus does not always result in cognitive-emotional dysfunction, although tinnitus may predispose subjects to certain impairment like anxiety. Other behavioral assessments may be needed to further define the relationship between tinnitus and anxiety, cognitive deficits, and other impairments.


Communication Sciences and Disorders | Otolaryngology


© 2013 Pace, Zhang. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.