Neurobiology of Stress-Induced Tinnitus

Curr Top Behav Neurosci. 2021;51:327-347. doi: 10.1007/7854_2020_215.


Emotional stress has accompanied humans since the dawn of time and has played an essential role not only in positive selection and adaptation to an ever-changing environment, but also in the acceleration or even initiation of many illnesses. The three main somatic mechanisms induced by stress are the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis), the sympathetic-adreno-medullar (SAM) axis, and the immune axis. In this chapter, the stress-induced mechanisms that can affect cochlear physiology are presented and discussed in the context of tinnitus generation and auditory neurobiology. It is concluded that all of the presented mechanisms need to be further investigated. It is advised that clinical practitioners ask patients about stressful events or chronic stress preceding the tinnitus onset and measure the vital signs. Finally, taking into account that tinnitus itself acts as a stressor, the implementation of anti-stress therapies for tinnitus treatment is recommended.

Keywords: Catecholamines; Cytokines; Glucocorticoids; Glutamate excitotoxicity; HPA axis; Immune axis; SAM axis; The cochlea.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System*
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Tinnitus* / etiology