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. 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 routinely to try new therapies and new techniques. Eventually, your tinnitus just becomes something you fold into your daily life.
Mainly, that’s because there’s no cure for tinnitus. But that might be changing. We may be getting close to a reliable and permanent 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
Somebody who is coping with tinnitus will hear a ringing or buzzing (or other sounds) that don’t have an outside source. A disorder that impacts millions of individuals, tinnitus is incredibly 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 a root problem that produces tinnitus symptoms. It can be difficult to pin down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one of the reasons why a cure is so evasive. There are several reasons why tinnitus can develop.
Even the connection between tinnitus and hearing loss is murky. There’s a connection, sure, but not all people who have tinnitus also have hearing loss (and vice versa).
Inflammation: a New Culprit
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. Mice who had noise-induced tinnitus were experimented on by Dr. Bao. And what she and her team discovered points to a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
According to the scans and tests done on these mice, inflammation was seen in the areas of the brain responsible for hearing. As inflammation is the body’s response to damage, this finding does indicate that noise-related hearing loss may be creating some damage we don’t fully understand as of yet.
But this discovery of inflammation also results in the possibility of a new type of treatment. Because we know (generally speaking) how to deal with inflammation. The symptoms of tinnitus went away when the mice were given drugs that inhibited inflammation. Or, at least, those symptoms were no longer observable.
Does This Mean There’s a Pill For Tinnitus?
This research does seem to indicate that, in the long run, there might actually 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.
That’s certainly the goal, but there are a number of large 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.
- We need to be sure any new approach is safe; it might take some time to determine particular side effects, complications, or problems connected to these particular inflammation-blocking medicines.
- Not everybody’s tinnitus will have the same cause; it’s difficult to identify (at this point) whether all or even most tinnitus is linked to inflammation of some type.
So it may be a while before we have a pill for tinnitus. But it’s not at all impossible. If you have tinnitus today, that represents a considerable increase in hope. And several other tinnitus treatments are also being studied. The cure for tinnitus gets closer and closer with every breakthrough and every bit of new knowledge.
What Can You do Now?
For now, individuals with tinnitus should feel optimistic that in the future there will be a cure for tinnitus. Even though we don’t have a cure for tinnitus, there are some modern treatments that can produce real benefits.
There are cognitive treatments that help you learn to ignore tinnitus noises and others that employ noise cancellation techniques. Many people also find relief with hearing aids. A cure might be a number of years off, but that doesn’t mean you have to deal with tinnitus alone or unassisted. Finding 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.