You learn to adjust to living with tinnitus. You always leave the TV on to help you tune out the continuous 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 routinely to try out new therapies and new techniques. After a while, you simply integrate your tinnitus into your everyday life.
Mainly, that’s because there isn’t a cure for tinnitus. But they may be getting close. We may 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 Specific Causes of Tinnitus Are Not Clear
Someone who has tinnitus will hear a ringing or buzzing (or other sounds) that don’t have an external source. Tinnitus is very common and millions of people deal with it on some level.
It’s also a symptom, generally speaking, and not itself a cause. Tinnitus is essentially caused by something else. It can be hard to pin down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one of the reasons why a cure is so evasive. There are numerous reasons why tinnitus can develop.
Even the connection between tinnitus and hearing loss is murky. 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 led 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 what she and her colleagues discovered points to a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
Tests and scans carried out on these mice revealed that the parts of the brain in control of listening and hearing consistently had significant inflammation. This indicates that some damage is taking place as a result of noise-induced hearing loss which we presently don’t understand because inflammation is the body’s reaction to damage.
But new forms of treatment are also made possible by this discovery of inflammation. Because inflammation is something we know how to address. The symptoms of tinnitus went away when the mice were given drugs that inhibited inflammation. Or, at least, those symptoms weren’t observable anymore.
Does This Mean There’s a Pill For Tinnitus?
If you take a long enough look, you can probably look at this research and see how, eventually, there might easily be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine if you could just pop a pill in the morning and keep tinnitus at bay all day without needing to turn to all those coping mechanisms.
We could get there if we can overcome a few hurdles:
- Not everyone’s tinnitus will be caused the same way; it’s hard to identify (at this stage) whether all or even most tinnitus is related to inflammation of some sort.
- First, these experiments were done on mice. And there’s a long way to go before this specific approach is deemed safe and approved for humans.
- We need to make sure any new strategy is safe; it could take some time to determine particular side effects, complications, or problems linked to these specific inflammation-blocking medications.
So it may be a while before there’s a pill for tinnitus. But it’s a genuine possibility in the future. If you have tinnitus today, that represents a substantial increase in hope. And, of course, this approach in managing tinnitus isn’t the only one presently 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 buzzing or ringing in your ears now, the promise 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 underlying problem.
There are cognitive therapies that help you learn to ignore tinnitus sounds and others that employ noise cancellation techniques. Many people also find relief with hearing aids. A cure may be a number of years off, but that doesn’t mean you need to cope with tinnitus alone or unaided. Obtaining 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.