Tinnitus is a highly prevalent condition that is associated with hearing loss in most cases. In the absence of external stimuli, phantom perceptions of sounds emerge from alterations in neuronal activity within central auditory and nonauditory structures. Pioneering studies using lidocaine revealed that tinnitus is susceptible to pharmacological interventions. However, lidocaine is not effective in all patients, and no other drug has been identified with clear efficacy for the long-term treatment of tinnitus. In this review, we present recent advances in tinnitus research, including more detailed knowledge of its pathophysiology and involved neurotransmitter systems. Moreover, we summarize results from animal and clinical treatment studies as well as from studies that identified tinnitus as a side effect of pharmacological treatments. Finally, we focus on challenges in the development of pharmacological compounds for the treatment of tinnitus, namely the limitations of available animal models and of standardized clinical research methodologies.
Keywords: hearing loss; neural networks; phantom sound; plasticity; tinnitus.