Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Ringing in the Brain

A direct link to the above video is at

One of the ideas I discussed in my book is that ringing in the ears (tinnitus), doesn't actually come from the ears but from the brain. The image at the left, an artist's rendition of nerve cells in the brain according to its caption, comes from a BBC science news story published a few days ago which shows new medical studies confirming this idea to be what's really happening:

The name of the article is "Technique Can Pinpoint Tinnitus". Here's a few paragraphs:

Tinnitus is a condition where sounds are heard in one or both ears when there is no external source.

While doctors had thought tinnitus was generated by ear problems, they now believe it is generated in the brain.

The team at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit used a special scanner to map the locations in the brain. They hope it will allow more targeted therapies to be developed.

The scan is called magnetoencephalography (MEG) and it measures the very small magnetic fields generated by intracellular electrical currents in the neuron cells in the brain.

The team at the Henry Ford Hospital have already tried using chips which generate electrical noise directly in the brain in two patients to try to interfere with the tinnitus signals.
Here's what I said in my book about tinnitus:
Here is a useful saying in discussions of life and consciousness: “that which ceases to change ceases to exist”. When the brain processes input from the auditory nerve, it tends to reject any continuous noises which do not change–like, for instance, the noise of the air molecules in the room banging into each other, or the sound of an air conditioner. In other words, for our consciousness, the noises (or smells, or continuous aches and pains, and so on) which cease to change, will cease to exist because the brain stops them from being considered for processing. When we listen back to a tape recording, we are surprised at how much background noise there is because we're hearing what’s really in the room, without the phase reversed noise cancellation the brain uses to remove those continuous noises. Now, when the internal mechanisms of the ear are damaged, usually through exposure to excessive sound levels, we end up with an imbalance, where the brain is correcting for frequencies that are no longer coming in. This manifests itself as tinnitus, or “ringing of the ears”. It turns out that the ringing we hear is not from the ears, but from the brain itself, as it attempts to cancel out particular frequencies that are no longer coming in from the auditory nerve.

This is an example of how the brain is processing a huge amount of data, while our conscious minds are completely unaware of the process. It is only when things are not functioning normally that we start to see evidence of what’s going on “behind the curtain”...
As I've said elsewhere, one of the criticisms of the Many Worlds Interpretation is that it's "too extravagant" to ask us to imagine that a new universe is created with each new action of chance or choice. Likewise, it may seem unreasonable to assume that the brain is processing data coming in from some of those other universes in ways that are not apparent to our conscious minds. Tinnitus is a great example of what happens when one of those complicated processes that are already occurring in the brain all the time goes slightly out of balance. How much more is happening "behind the curtain" that we have yet to discover? This idea has been explored elsewhere in my book, and in a number of other blog entries including Creativity and the Quantum Universe, Seeing Time, Feeling Colors, Tasting Light, Beer and Miracles, The Biocentric Universe Part 2 and You Have a Shape and a Trajectory.

The idea that our brains are doing much more than we realize to create the reality we see around us is also the point of my song From the Corner of My Eye. Here's a video of my friend Ron Scott singing that song:

A direct link to the above video is at

Enjoy the journey!


PS - Just a reminder that we now have my book available as a 6-hour-long set of mp3s - an audio book of the revised and expanded third edition of the book. Interested? Go to .

Next: Quantum Suicide


Inuneko said...

Tinnitus, my mortal enemy... not really. I've had plenty of experience with Tinnitus, especially recently.

Through my experiences, I found that Tinnitus is more than just a high-pitched, constant sound, pretty much similar to what you would experience during a hearing test. It has manifested itself in the form of many tones of such a sound, and sometimes, rather than the sound be constant, it will 'chirp' at random intervals. It has also come as the sound of wind chimes being tussled in a gentle breeze. More often than not, the chimes would sound to form a melody, but when I try to recall it, I can't remember it.

The more humorous manifestations could probably be labeled as auditory hallucinations. But then again, wouldn't Tinnitus classified as an auditory hallucination as well?

I have heard phones ring, doorbells, a train passing on the tracks (just the sound of it moving across the tracks, no horn). Sometimes in just one ear only, I'll hear what sounds like wind constantly blowing in that ear, but lacking the sensation of anything actually blowing in that ear.

I've heard voices as if they were in the room with me, or trying to talk to me from the next room, but people would be on the other side of the house or I would be alone. It's usually just a single word, sometimes two, but it's nearly always my name, if it's more than one word, then I can't make out what it says, and that's where the fun begins. I'm so convinced that I really did hear someone that I get up and go check it out, only to find no one had been talking to me in the first place, oops.

Although sometimes, the voices sound distorted and full of static before breaking off into full on white noise for nearly an entire minute.

Sometimes the sound is in just one ear only, but there are plenty of times where it affects both ears. I see nothing wrong with it, except the fact that people may try to claim you're crazy if you admit to them you heard voices, and they turn your diagnosis of Tinnitus into Schizophrenia.

That's all I can think of for now, I hope you and the other viewers found this at least semi-interesting and I didn't just put you all to sleep :p

redhotchilly12 said...

This story found more interesting and I enjoy reading the topic here regarding on ear ringing or tinnitus they said. This is more helpful tips and I'm sure people suffering from tinnitus will like this ideas of yours here.

nbr1facilitator said...

I have tinnitus. It is attributed to a fever I had as a child which left me with a hearing deficiency. I am a composer and as a child I could hear full symphonic orchestras in my head while being driven home from my Mom's restaurant late at night after closing the business, dosing in the back seat of the '65 Polara. The different sounds of the car cruising at 75mph where consistent, yet one discernibly separate from the other. The tires are separate from the engine which is separate from the automatic transmission, which is separate from the differential. By brain shifted from the task of noise cancelation for the constant of the exhaust hood over the cook station to the constants of the car sounds. For some reason this was stimulating to my musical intuition and found great beauty in the music generated from this dream state.

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