The fascinating and indispensable ability of the auditory centre to emphasise relevant sounds in a targeted way can also turn against us in the worst-case scenario. Scientists suspect that this same mechanism lies behind the development of tinnitus
. More specifically, if certain frequencies become increasingly rare in the auditory centre because someone is experiencing a loss of hearing (usually related to age), the brain attempts to “amplify” these frequencies, even when they are not heard for real. As a result, a non-existent sound is generated in the brain. Tinnitus is not caused by a fault in the ear, but by alterations in the brain. Some experts refer to tinnitus as the “nerve cells talking to themselves".