You’re living with tinnitus and you’ve learned to adjust your life to it. You always keep the TV on to help you tune out the persistent ringing. 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. Over time, you simply integrate your tinnitus into your daily life.
The main reason is that tinnitus has no cure. But that could be changing. We might be getting close to an effective and lasting cure for tinnitus according to research published in PLOS biology. In the meantime, hearing aids can really be helpful.
Tinnitus Has a Murky Set of Causes
Tinnitus usually 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 disorder that affects millions of individuals, tinnitus is extremely common.
Generally speaking, tinnitus is itself a symptom of an underlying condition and not a cause in and of itself. Basically, something causes tinnitus – there’s an underlying issue that causes tinnitus symptoms. It can be difficult to pin down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one reason why a cure is so evasive. Tinnitus symptoms can manifest due to several reasons.
True, most people attribute tinnitus to hearing loss of some kind, but even that relationship is unclear. There’s a correlation, sure, but not all people who have tinnitus also have hearing loss (and vice versa).
A New Culprit: Inflammation
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 who had tinnitus triggered by noise-induced hearing loss. And the results of these experiments indicated a culprit of tinnitus: inflammation.
According to the scans and tests performed on these mice, inflammation was observed in the areas of the brain responsible for listening. As inflammation is the body’s reaction to damage, this finding does suggest that noise-related hearing loss could be causing some damage we don’t really comprehend yet.
But new kinds of treatment are also made possible by this discovery of inflammation. 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 disappeared. Or, at least, those symptoms weren’t observable anymore.
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 that, instead of investing in these various coping mechanisms, you can simply pop a pill in the morning and keep your tinnitus at bay.
We could get there if we can overcome 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 complications.
- Not everyone’s tinnitus will be caused the same way; it’s difficult to know (at this stage) whether all or even most tinnitus is linked to inflammation of some sort.
- Mice were the subject of these experiments. And there’s a long way to go before this particular strategy is deemed safe and approved for people.
So, a pill for tinnitus may be a long way off. But it’s no longer impossible. That’s significant hope for your tinnitus down the road. And various other tinnitus treatments are also being studied. Every new breakthrough, every new bit of knowledge, brings that cure for tinnitus just a little bit closer.
What Can You do Now?
In the meantime, individuals who suffered from tinnitus should feel optimistic that in the future there will be a cure for tinnitus. There are contemporary treatments for tinnitus that can produce real results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the underlying issue.
There are cognitive treatments that help you learn to ignore tinnitus noises and others that utilize noise cancellation strategies. Hearing aids frequently provide relief for many people. A cure could be many years off, but that doesn’t mean you need to deal with tinnitus alone or unassisted. Spending less time thinking about the ringing in your ears and more time doing the things you love can happen for you by finding the right treatment.