You’re living with tinnitus and you’ve learned to adapt your life to it. In order to drown out the persistent ringing, you always keep the TV on. The loud music at happy hour makes your tinnitus a lot worse so you refrain from going out with your coworkers. You make appointments regularly to try out new therapies and new techniques. After a while, you simply integrate your tinnitus into your everyday life.
The primary reason is that tinnitus has no cure. But that could be changing. Research published in PLOS Biology seems to offer hope that we may be getting closer to a permanent and reliable cure for tinnitus. Until then, hearing aids can be really helpful.
Tinnitus Has a Cloudy Set of Causes
Tinnitus normally is experienced as a buzzing or ringing in the ear (though, tinnitus could present as other sounds too) that do not have an objective cause. Tinnitus is very common and millions of individuals deal with it to some degree.
It’s also a symptom, generally speaking, and not a cause unto itself. Tinnitus is essentially caused by something else. It can be hard to pin down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one reason why a cure is so elusive. There are a number of reasons why tinnitus can occur.
Even the connection between tinnitus and hearing loss is not well understood. Some individuals who have tinnitus do have hearing loss but some don’t.
Inflammation: a New Culprit
Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, conducted a study published in PLOS Biology. Dr. Bao performed experiments on mice who had tinnitus caused by noise-induced hearing loss. And what she and her team found points to a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
Scans and tests carried out on these mice found that the regions of the brain in control of listening and hearing consistently had significant inflammation. This indicates that some damage is taking place as a result of noise-induced hearing loss which we presently don’t comprehend because inflammation is the body’s reaction to damage.
But new forms of treatment are also made possible by this discovery of inflammation. Because we know (broadly speaking) how to deal with inflammation. When the mice were given drugs that inhibited the observed inflammation response, the symptoms of tinnitus went away. Or, at least, those symptoms were no longer observable.
So is There a Magic Pill That Cures Tinnitus?
This research does seem to indicate that, in the long run, there might actually be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine that, instead of investing in these numerous coping mechanisms, you can just take a pill in the morning and keep your tinnitus at bay.
That’s certainly the goal, but there are several large hurdles in the way:
- Not everyone’s tinnitus will have the same cause; whether all or even most instances of tinnitus are related to some sort of inflammation is still difficult to know.
- Any new approach needs to be demonstrated to be safe; it could take some time to determine particular side effects, complications, or issues related to these specific inflammation-blocking medications.
- First, these experiments were carried out on mice. And there’s a lot to do before this particular strategy is deemed safe and approved for humans.
So it may be a while before we have a pill for tinnitus. But it’s a genuine possibility in the future. That’s significant hope for your tinnitus down the road. And various other tinnitus treatments are also being studied. Every new discovery, every new bit of knowledge, brings that cure for tinnitus just a little bit closer.
Is There Anything You Can Do?
If you have a relentless ringing or buzzing in your ears now, the potential of a far-off pill may provide you with hope – but not necessarily relief. There are modern treatments for tinnitus that can provide real results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the root problem.
Some strategies include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies created to help you ignore the sounds connected to your tinnitus. Hearing aids often offer relief for many individuals. A cure may be many years off, but that doesn’t mean you need to cope with tinnitus by yourself or unassisted. Finding a treatment that works can help you spend more time doing things you love, and less time focusing on that buzzing or ringing in your ears.