You’re living with tinnitus and you’ve learned to adjust your life to it. In order to tune out the persistent ringing, you always keep the TV on. The loud music at happy hour makes your tinnitus much worse so you avoid going out with your friends. You’re always making appointments to try new techniques and treatments. After a while, you simply integrate your tinnitus into your everyday life.
The primary reason is that tinnitus has no cure. But they may be getting close. We might be getting close to a reliable and lasting cure for tinnitus according to research published in PLOS biology. Until then, hearing aids can be really helpful.
The Exact Causes of Tinnitus Are Unclear
Someone who is coping with tinnitus will hear a buzzing or ringing (or other noises) that don’t have an outside source. A condition that affects millions of individuals, tinnitus is very common.
It’s also a symptom, generally speaking, and not itself a cause. Tinnitus is generally caused by something else. It can be hard to narrow down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one reason why a cure is so elusive. There are numerous reasons why tinnitus can develop.
Even the link between tinnitus and hearing loss is not well understood. There’s a correlation, sure, but not all people who have tinnitus also have hearing loss (and vice versa).
Inflammation: a New Culprit
Research published in PLOS Biology detailed a study led by Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor of physiology at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tuscon. Dr. Bao carried out experiments on mice that had tinnitus triggered by noise-induced hearing loss. And what she and her team found indicates a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
Tests and scans done on these mice found that the areas of the brain responsible for listening and hearing typically had significant inflammation. As inflammation is the body’s response to damage, this finding does suggest that noise-induced hearing loss might be causing some damage we don’t completely understand as yet.
But new kinds of treatment are also made possible by this discovery of inflammation. Because we know (generally speaking) how to manage inflammation. When the mice were given drugs that inhibited the observed inflammation response, the symptoms of tinnitus disappeared. Or, at least, those symptoms weren’t observable anymore.
Does This Mean There’s a Pill For Tinnitus?
This research does seem to suggest 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 having to turn to all those coping mechanisms.
That’s certainly the goal, but there are numerous huge hurdles in the way:
- Any new approach needs to be proven safe; these inflammation blocking medications will need to be tested over time to rule out side effects and any potential complications.
- Not everyone’s tinnitus will be caused the same way; whether all or even most cases of tinnitus are related to some kind of inflammation is still difficult to know.
- 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.
So it might be a while before we have a pill for tinnitus. But it’s a real possibility in the future. If you have tinnitus today, that represents a considerable increase in hope. And, of course, this strategy in treating tinnitus isn’t the only one presently being explored. The cure for tinnitus gets closer and closer with every development and every bit of new knowledge.
Is There Anything You Can Do?
If you have a persistent buzzing or ringing in your ears now, the potential of a far-off pill might give you hope – but not necessarily relief. Even though we don’t have a cure for tinnitus, there are some modern treatments that can produce real benefits.
Some strategies include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies created to help you ignore the sounds connected to your tinnitus. Many people also find relief with hearing aids. You don’t have to go it alone in spite of the fact that a cure is probably several years away. 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.