You’re living with tinnitus and you’ve learned to adjust your life to it. You always keep the television on to help you tune out the constant ringing. 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 regularly to try out new therapies and new techniques. Over time, you simply integrate your tinnitus into your daily life.
Mainly, that’s because there’s no cure for tinnitus. But that could be changing. We might be getting close to a reliable 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
Tinnitus typically is experienced as a buzzing or ringing in the ear (though, tinnitus could present as other sounds as well) that do not have an objective cause. Tinnitus is really common and millions of people cope with it on some level.
It’s also a symptom, generally speaking, and not a cause unto itself. Basically, something causes tinnitus – there’s a root problem that causes tinnitus symptoms. It can be hard to pin down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one reason why a cure is so elusive. There are numerous reasons why tinnitus can occur.
True, most individuals attribute tinnitus to hearing loss of some sort, but even that relationship is murky. There’s a connection, sure, but not all individuals who have tinnitus also have hearing loss (and vice versa).
A New Culprit: Inflammation
Research published in PLOS Biology detailed a study conducted 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.
Scans and tests carried out on these mice showed that the areas of the brain responsible for listening and hearing consistently had significant inflammation. This suggests that some injury is happening as a consequence of noise-related hearing loss which we presently 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 deal with. 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 appear 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.
We might get there if we can tackle a few hurdles:
- We need to make sure any new strategy is safe; these inflammation blocking medicines will have to be tested over time to rule out side effects and any potential complications.
- Not everybody’s tinnitus will be caused the same way; whether all or even most instances of tinnitus are connected to some kind of inflammation is still hard to know.
- First, these experiments were carried out on mice. And there’s a lot to do before this particular approach is considered safe and approved for people.
So, a pill for tinnitus may be a long way off. But it’s no longer impossible. If you have tinnitus today, that represents a considerable increase in hope. And, of course, this strategy in treating tinnitus is not the only one presently 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 give you hope – but not necessarily relief. There are modern treatments for tinnitus that can provide genuine results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the root problem.
There are cognitive treatments that help you learn to ignore tinnitus noises and others that utilize noise cancellation techniques. Hearing aids often provide relief for many people. You don’t have to go it alone in spite of the fact that a cure is likely several years away. Spending less time thinking about the ringing in your ears and more time doing the things you love can happen for you by getting the right treatment.