You’re living with tinnitus and you’ve learned to adapt your life to it. You always keep the TV on to help you tune out the persistent ringing. You refrain from going out for happy hour with coworkers because the loud music at the bar makes your tinnitus worse for days. You make appointments routinely to try out new therapies and new treatments. Over time, you simply fold your tinnitus into your daily life.
Mainly, that’s because there’s no cure for tinnitus. But they may be getting close. A study published in PLOS Biology seems to offer hope that we may be getting closer to a permanent and reliable cure for tinnitus. In the meantime, hearing aids can really help.
The Precise Causes of Tinnitus Are Not Clear
Tinnitus typically 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 very common and millions of people deal with it on some level.
Generally speaking, tinnitus is itself a symptom of an underlying condition and not a cause in and of itself. Tinnitus is essentially caused by something else. One of the reasons why a “cure” for tinnitus is elusive is that these root causes can be hard to pin down. Tinnitus symptoms can occur due to several reasons.
True, most individuals attribute tinnitus to hearing loss of some kind, but even that relationship is unclear. There’s a link, sure, but not all individuals who have tinnitus also have hearing loss (and vice versa).
Inflammation: a New Culprit
Research published in PLOS Biology outlined 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 what she and her colleagues found points to a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
According to the tests and scans carried out on these mice, inflammation was discovered in the areas of the brain responsible for hearing. This indicates that some injury is occurring as a result of noise-induced hearing loss which we currently don’t understand because inflammation is the body’s response to injury.
But new forms of treatment are also made available by this discovery of inflammation. Because inflammation is something we know how to manage. The symptoms of tinnitus went away when the mice were given drugs that inhibited inflammation. Or, at least, those symptoms weren’t observable anymore.
So is There a Magic Pill That Cures Tinnitus?
If you take a long enough view, you can most likely look at this research and see how, one day, there might easily be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine if you could just take a pill in the morning and keep tinnitus at bay all day without having to turn to all those coping mechanisms.
That’s certainly the goal, but there are a number of large hurdles in the way:
- 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.
- Mice were the subject of these experiments. Before this approach is considered safe for humans, there’s still a substantial amount of work to do.
- Not everybody’s tinnitus will be caused the same way; whether all or even most instances of tinnitus are connected to some sort of inflammation is still hard to know.
So it may be a while before there’s a pill for tinnitus. But it’s no longer impossible. If you have tinnitus now, that represents a significant increase in hope. And, obviously, this approach in managing tinnitus is not the only one currently being explored. The cure for tinnitus gets closer and closer with every discovery and every bit of new knowledge.
Is There Anything You Can Do?
For now, individuals who suffered from tinnitus should feel optimistic that in the future there will be a cure for tinnitus. Although we don’t have a cure for tinnitus, there are some modern treatments that can produce real benefits.
Some approaches include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies designed to help you ignore the sounds linked to your tinnitus. Many individuals also get relief with hearing aids. You don’t need to go it alone despite the fact that a cure is likely several years away. Finding a treatment that is effective can help you spend more time doing things you love, and less time thinking about that buzzing or ringing in your ears.