Table of Contents Author Guidelines Submit a Manuscript
Neural Plasticity
Volume 2016 (2016), Article ID 5130503, 15 pages
Review Article

Electrical Stimulation of the Ear, Head, Cranial Nerve, or Cortex for the Treatment of Tinnitus: A Scoping Review

1NIHR Nottingham Hearing Biomedical Research Unit, Otology and Hearing Group, Division of Clinical Neuroscience, School of Medicine, University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG1 5DU, UK
2MRC Institute of Hearing Research, University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK

Received 25 December 2015; Revised 22 April 2016; Accepted 18 May 2016

Academic Editor: Michael Nitsche

Copyright © 2016 Derek J. Hoare et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Tinnitus is defined as the perception of sound in the absence of an external source. It is often associated with hearing loss and is thought to result from abnormal neural activity at some point or points in the auditory pathway, which is incorrectly interpreted by the brain as an actual sound. Neurostimulation therapies therefore, which interfere on some level with that abnormal activity, are a logical approach to treatment. For tinnitus, where the pathological neuronal activity might be associated with auditory and other areas of the brain, interventions using electromagnetic, electrical, or acoustic stimuli separately, or paired electrical and acoustic stimuli, have been proposed as treatments. Neurostimulation therapies should modulate neural activity to deliver a permanent reduction in tinnitus percept by driving the neuroplastic changes necessary to interrupt abnormal levels of oscillatory cortical activity and restore typical levels of activity. This change in activity should alter or interrupt the tinnitus percept (reduction or extinction) making it less bothersome. Here we review developments in therapies involving electrical stimulation of the ear, head, cranial nerve, or cortex in the treatment of tinnitus which demonstrably, or are hypothesised to, interrupt pathological neuronal activity in the cortex associated with tinnitus.