You learn to adjust to living with tinnitus. In order to tune out the constant ringing, you always leave the TV on. You avoid going out for happy hour with coworkers because the loud music at the bar makes your tinnitus worse for days. You’re always making appointments to try new techniques and therapies. Ultimately, your tinnitus just becomes something you fold into your day-to-day life.
The main reason is that tinnitus has no cure. But that might be changing. We might be getting close to an effective and permanent cure for tinnitus according to research published in PLOS biology. In the meantime, hearing aids can really help.
Tinnitus Has a Cloudy Set of Causes
Someone who is coping with tinnitus will hear a buzzing or ringing (or other sounds) that don’t have an external source. A condition that affects millions of individuals, tinnitus is very common.
Generally speaking, tinnitus is itself a symptom of an underlying problem and not a cause in and of itself. Tinnitus is generally caused by something else. It can be difficult to pin down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one of the reasons why a cure is so elusive. There are numerous reasons why tinnitus can occur.
Even the connection between tinnitus and hearing loss is not well understood. There’s a link, sure, but not all people who have tinnitus also have hearing loss (and vice versa).
Inflammation: a New Culprit
Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, directed a study published in PLOS Biology. Dr. Bao performed experiments on mice who had tinnitus triggered by noise-induced hearing loss. And what she and her colleagues found points to a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
Tests and scans carried out on these mice revealed that the regions of the brain responsible for listening and hearing typically had significant inflammation. This reveals that some injury is happening as a consequence of noise-induced hearing loss which we presently don’t understand because inflammation is the body’s response to damage.
But this knowledge of inflammation also results in the potential for a new form of treatment. Because inflammation is something we know how to manage. When the mice were given drugs that inhibited the observed inflammation reaction, the symptoms of tinnitus went away. Or, at least, those symptoms were no longer observable.
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 that, instead of investing in these various coping mechanisms, you can simply pop a pill in the morning and keep your tinnitus at bay.
That’s definitely the goal, but there are numerous large hurdles in the way:
- The exact cause of tinnitus will differ from one individual to another; it’s difficult to identify (at this point) whether all or even most tinnitus is linked to inflammation of some type.
- First, these experiments were carried out on mice. Before this strategy is considered safe for people, there’s still a substantial amount of work to do.
- Any new approach needs to be proven safe; it may take some time to determine particular side effects, complications, or issues related to these particular inflammation-blocking medications.
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 numerous other tinnitus treatments are also being studied. The cure for tinnitus gets closer and closer with every breakthrough and every bit of new knowledge.
Is There Anything You Can Do?
If you have a chronic ringing or buzzing in your ears today, the potential of a far-off pill might give you hope – but not necessarily alleviation. There are modern treatments for tinnitus that can produce genuine results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the root issue.
Some approaches include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies created to help you ignore the sounds related to your tinnitus. Hearing aids frequently offer relief for many individuals. A cure may be a number of years off, but that doesn’t mean you have to deal with tinnitus alone or unaided. Finding a treatment that is effective can help you spend more time doing things you love, and less time focusing on that buzzing or ringing in your ears.