You learn to adapt to life with tinnitus. You always keep the television on to help you tune out the constant ringing. You avoid going out for happy hour with coworkers because the loud music at the bar makes your tinnitus worse for days. You make appointments regularly to try new therapies and new techniques. Eventually, your tinnitus just becomes something you fold into your daily life.
The primary reason is that tinnitus has no cure. But they could be getting close. Research published in PLOS Biology seems to offer hope that we could be getting closer to a permanent and effective cure for tinnitus. In the meantime, hearing aids can really be helpful.
The Precise Causes of Tinnitus Are Not Clear
Tinnitus usually is experienced as a buzzing or ringing in the ear (though, tinnitus could manifest as other sounds as well) that do not have an objective cause. Tinnitus is quite common and millions of people deal with it to some degree.
Generally speaking, tinnitus is itself a symptom of an underlying problem and not a cause in and of itself. Basically, something causes tinnitus – there’s a root issue that produces tinnitus symptoms. One of the reasons why a “cure” for tinnitus is elusive is that these root causes can be difficult to narrow down. There are a number of reasons why tinnitus can develop.
Even the link between tinnitus and hearing loss is murky. There’s a connection, sure, but not all individuals 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, led a study published in PLOS Biology. Mice who had noise-induced tinnitus were experimented on by Dr. Bao. And what she and her colleagues found points to a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
Tests and scans done on these mice showed that the parts of the brain in control of listening and hearing persistently had considerable inflammation. As inflammation is the body’s reaction to damage, this finding does indicate that noise-related hearing loss may be creating some damage we don’t fully comprehend yet.
But new forms of treatment are also made available by this discovery of inflammation. 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 disappeared. Or it became impossible to detect 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 take a pill in the morning and keep tinnitus at bay all day without needing to resort to all those coping mechanisms.
That’s definitely the goal, but there are several big hurdles in the way:
- First, these experiments were conducted on mice. Before this strategy is considered safe for humans, there’s still a significant amount of work to do.
- The exact 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 difficult to identify.
- We need to make sure any new approach is safe; these inflammation blocking medicines will have to be tested over time to rule out side effects and any potential complications.
So it may be a while before we have a pill for tinnitus. But it’s a genuine possibility in the future. That’s significant hope for your tinnitus down the road. And, obviously, this approach in treating tinnitus is not the only one presently being researched. The cure for tinnitus gets closer and closer with every breakthrough and every bit of new knowledge.
What Can You do Now?
If you have a chronic ringing or buzzing in your ears now, the potential of a far-off pill might provide you with hope – but not necessarily relief. Even though we don’t have a cure for tinnitus, there are some modern treatments that can provide real results.
Some methods include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies created to help you ignore the sounds connected to your tinnitus. Hearing aids frequently offer relief for many individuals. You don’t have to go it alone despite 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.