You learn to adapt to life with tinnitus. You always keep the TV on to help you tune out the continuous ringing. You refrain from going out for happy hour with coworkers because the loud music at the bar makes your tinnitus worse for days. You’re always going in to try new techniques and treatments. Ultimately, your tinnitus just becomes something you fold into your daily life.
The main reason is that tinnitus can’t be cured. But that may be changing. Research published in PLOS Biology appears to offer hope that we could be getting closer to a permanent and reliable cure for tinnitus. Until then, hearing aids can be really helpful.
Tinnitus Has a Murky Set of Causes
Tinnitus normally is experienced as a ringing or buzzing in the ear (though, tinnitus could manifest as other sounds as well) that do not have an external cause. A condition that impacts millions of individuals, tinnitus is very common.
Generally speaking, tinnitus is itself a symptom of an underlying condition and not a cause in and of itself. Tinnitus is essentially caused by something else. It can be difficult to narrow down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one of the reasons why a cure is so evasive. Tinnitus symptoms can occur due to several reasons.
True, most individuals attribute tinnitus to hearing loss of some type, but even that relationship is unclear. Some individuals who have tinnitus do have hearing loss but some don’t.
A New Culprit: Inflammation
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 who had tinnitus triggered by noise-induced hearing loss. And what she and her colleagues discovered indicates a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
According to the scans and tests done on these mice, inflammation was seen around the areas of the brain responsible for listening. As inflammation is the body’s response to damage, this finding does suggest that noise-related hearing loss might be causing some damage we don’t fully understand as yet.
But this discovery of inflammation also brings about the potential for a new kind of treatment. Because inflammation is something we know how to manage. The symptoms of tinnitus cleared up when the mice were given drugs that impeded inflammation. Or it became impossible to observe any symptoms, at least.
Does This Mean There’s a Pill For Tinnitus?
This research does seem to indicate that, eventually, 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.
That’s definitely the goal, but there are a number of big hurdles in the way:
- First, these experiments were done on mice. Before this strategy is considered safe for humans, there’s still a substantial amount of work to do.
- Any new approach needs to be proven safe; these inflammation blocking medicines will have to be tested over time to rule out side effects and any potential concerns.
- The exact cause of tinnitus will differ from person to person; whether all or even most cases of tinnitus are related to some kind of inflammation is still difficult to identify.
So, a pill for tinnitus might be a long way off. But it’s a genuine possibility in the future. If you have tinnitus now, that represents a considerable increase in hope. And various other tinnitus treatments are also being studied. The cure for tinnitus gets closer and closer with every discovery and every bit of new knowledge.
What Can You do Today?
For now, individuals with tinnitus should feel optimistic that in the future there will be a cure for tinnitus. There are modern treatments for tinnitus that can provide real results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the underlying issue.
Some approaches include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies created to help you ignore the sounds connected to your tinnitus. Many people also get relief with hearing aids. You don’t have to go it alone despite the fact that a cure is likely several years away. Obtaining 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.