You’re living with tinnitus and you’ve learned to adjust your life to it. In order to tune out the constant ringing, you always leave the TV on. You refrain from going out for happy hour with friends because the loud music at the bar makes your tinnitus worse for days. You make appointments routinely to try new therapies and new treatments. Over time, you simply fold your tinnitus into your daily life.
Mostly, that’s because there isn’t a cure for tinnitus. But that might be changing. We might be getting close to an effective and lasting cure for tinnitus according to research published in PLOS biology. Until then, hearing aids can be really helpful.
Tinnitus Has a Murky Set of Causes
Tinnitus usually manifests as a ringing or buzzing in the ear (though, tinnitus could present as other sounds too) that do not have an objective cause. A disorder that affects millions of people, tinnitus is incredibly common.
Generally speaking, tinnitus is itself a symptom of an underlying condition and not a cause in and of itself. In other words, something causes tinnitus – there’s a root issue that causes tinnitus symptoms. It can be hard to narrow down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one of the reasons why a cure is so evasive. There are numerous reasons why tinnitus can occur.
Even the link between tinnitus and hearing loss is not well understood. Some people who have tinnitus do have hearing loss but some don’t.
Inflammation: a New Culprit
Research published in PLOS Biology outlined a study led by Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor of physiology at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tuscon. Dr. Bao performed experiments on mice that had tinnitus triggered by noise-induced hearing loss. And the results of these experiments pointed to a culprit of tinnitus: inflammation.
According to the tests and scans performed on these mice, inflammation was seen around the areas of the brain responsible for listening. This reveals that some injury is happening as a consequence of noise-induced hearing loss which we currently don’t understand because inflammation is the body’s response to damage.
But this discovery of inflammation also brings about the potential for a new kind of treatment. Because inflammation is something we know how to address. When the mice were given drugs that inhibited the observed inflammation reaction, the symptoms of tinnitus went away. Or, at least, those symptoms weren’t observable anymore.
So is There a Magic Pill That Cures Tinnitus?
This research does appear to suggest that, in the long run, there might actually be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine if you could just pop a pill in the morning and keep tinnitus at bay all day without needing to turn to all those coping mechanisms.
We may get there if we can tackle a few hurdles:
- Any new approach needs to be demonstrated to be safe; these inflammation blocking medicines will have to be tested over time to rule out side effects and any potential concerns.
- Mice were the focus of these experiments. Before this strategy is considered safe for people, there’s still a substantial amount of work to do.
- The precise cause of tinnitus will differ from one individual to another; it’s hard to identify (at this time) whether all or even most tinnitus is linked to inflammation of some type.
So, a pill for tinnitus might be a long way off. But it’s a real possibility in the future. That’s considerable hope for your tinnitus down the road. And, obviously, this approach in treating tinnitus is not the only one presently being explored. The cure for tinnitus gets closer and closer with every breakthrough and every bit of new knowledge.
Is There Anything You Can Do?
For now, people with tinnitus should feel optimistic that in the future there will be a cure for tinnitus. Even though we don’t have a cure for tinnitus, there are some modern treatments that can provide real benefits.
There are cognitive therapies that help you learn to ignore tinnitus noises and others that employ noise cancellation techniques. Many individuals also find relief with hearing aids. You don’t need to go it alone despite the fact that a cure is probably several years away. Finding a treatment that is effective can help you spend more time doing what you love, and less time thinking about that buzzing or ringing in your ears.