You learn to adjust to life with tinnitus. In order to tune out the persistent 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. After a while, you simply fold your tinnitus into your daily life.
The main reason is that tinnitus has no cure. But that may be changing. A study published in PLOS Biology seems to give hope that we may be getting closer to a lasting and reliable cure for tinnitus. Until that happens, hearing aids can be really helpful.
The Exact Causes of Tinnitus Are Not Clear
Somebody who has tinnitus will hear a buzzing or ringing (or other sounds) that don’t have an external source. A disorder that affects millions of people, tinnitus is incredibly common.
Generally speaking, tinnitus is itself a symptom of an underlying condition and not a cause in and of itself. Tinnitus is generally caused by something else. One reason why a “cure” for tinnitus is elusive is that these underlying causes can be difficult to pin down. There are numerous reasons why tinnitus can occur.
Even the relationship between tinnitus and hearing loss is not well understood. There’s a correlation, 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 directed 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 caused by noise-induced hearing loss. And the results of these experiments indicated a culprit of tinnitus: inflammation.
According to the tests and scans carried out on these mice, inflammation was observed around the areas of the brain responsible for hearing. This suggests that some damage is occurring as a result of noise-related hearing loss which we currently don’t comprehend because inflammation is the body’s response to injury.
But this knowledge of inflammation also leads to the possibility of a new kind of treatment. Because we know (broadly speaking) how to deal with inflammation. When the mice were given drugs that impeded the observed inflammation response, the symptoms of tinnitus went away. Or, at least, those symptoms were no longer observable.
So is There a Magic Pill That Cures Tinnitus?
If you take a long enough view, you can most likely view this research and see how, eventually, there could easily be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine that, instead of investing in these numerous coping mechanisms, you can simply take a pill in the morning and keep your tinnitus at bay.
We might get there if we can overcome a few hurdles:
- First, these experiments were carried out on mice. Before this approach is considered safe for people, there’s still a significant amount of work to do.
- We need to be certain any new approach is safe; these inflammation blocking medications will have to be tested over time to rule out side effects and any potential concerns.
- The precise cause of tinnitus will be distinct from person to person; whether all or even most cases of tinnitus are related to some kind of inflammation is still hard to identify.
So, a pill for tinnitus may be a long way off. But it’s a real possibility in the future. That’s considerable hope for your tinnitus down the road. And, of course, this approach in treating tinnitus isn’t the only one currently being researched. Every new development, 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 today, the promise of a far-off pill might give you hope – but not necessarily relief. There are contemporary treatments for tinnitus that can provide genuine results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the root problem.
Some approaches include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies created to help you ignore the sounds linked to your tinnitus. Many individuals 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. 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.