Auditory brainstem responses (ABR) may be a possible diagnostic tool in identifying constant tinnitus.

Researchers from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have found that brainstem audiometry can be used to measure changes in the brain in people with constant tinnitus. This means that auditory brainstem responses (ABR) may be a possible objective diagnostic tool in identifying people with constant tinnitus.

In the study, ABR measurements were carried out on 405 persons, 228 with tinnitus and 177 without tinnitus.

The study found that in people with constant tinnitus there was a clear difference in the measurements when compared to people without tinnitus or people who rated their tinnitus as occasional.

Risk of developing constant tinnitus

The researchers also followed over 20,000 people with no or varying degrees of tinnitus in order to track how the symptoms develop over time. Here, the researchers found that people with occasional tinnitus are at increased risk of developing constant tinnitus, especially if it recurs often. The study also found that for those who already experience constant tinnitus, the chances are that the problem will persist.

The study was conducted in collaboration with the Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm University in Sweden, the University of Bergen in Norway and a private company.

The study, “Alterations in auditory brain stem response distinguish occasional and constant tinnitus”, was published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

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