You learn to adapt to life with tinnitus. You always leave the TV on to help you tune out the persistent ringing. The loud music at happy hour makes your tinnitus a lot worse so you avoid going out with your coworkers. You make appointments routinely to try out new therapies and new treatments. Ultimately, your tinnitus just becomes something you fold into your day-to-day life.
Mostly, that’s because there’s no cure for tinnitus. But they could be getting close. We might be getting close to an effective and lasting cure for tinnitus according to research published in PLOS biology. For now, hearing aids can really be helpful.
Tinnitus Has a Cloudy Set of Causes
Someone who is coping with tinnitus will hear a ringing or buzzing (or other sounds) that don’t have an outside source. A condition that impacts millions of people, tinnitus is very common.
It’s also a symptom, generally speaking, and not a cause unto itself. Basically, something causes tinnitus – there’s an underlying problem that produces tinnitus symptoms. It can be hard to narrow down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one of the reasons why a cure is so elusive. There are numerous reasons why tinnitus can manifest.
Even the connection between tinnitus and hearing loss is murky. Some individuals who have tinnitus do have hearing loss but some don’t.
Inflammation: a New Culprit
Research published in PLOS Biology outlined 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.
Scans and tests carried out on these mice found that the regions of the brain responsible for listening and hearing consistently had significant inflammation. This suggests that some damage is happening as a consequence of noise-induced hearing loss which we currently don’t understand because inflammation is the body’s reaction to injury.
But this knowledge of inflammation also leads to the possibility of a new type of treatment. Because inflammation is something we know how to deal with. When the mice were given drugs that impeded the observed inflammation reaction, the symptoms of tinnitus disappeared. Or, at least, those symptoms were no longer observable.
Does This Mean There’s a Pill For Tinnitus?
This research does seem to suggest that, eventually, 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 huge hurdles in the way:
- First, these experiments were conducted on mice. Before this approach is considered safe for humans, there’s still a significant amount of work to do.
- We need to make sure any new approach is safe; these inflammation blocking medicines will need to be tested over time to rule out side effects and any potential complications.
- The exact cause of tinnitus will be distinct from one individual to another; whether all or even most instances of tinnitus are related to some kind of inflammation is still hard to know.
So it might be a while before we have a pill for tinnitus. But it’s a genuine possibility in the future. If you have tinnitus now, that represents a substantial increase in hope. And numerous other tinnitus treatments are also being researched. Every new discovery, 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 persistent ringing or buzzing in your ears today, the promise of a far-off pill might give you hope – but not necessarily alleviation. Even though we don’t have a cure for tinnitus, there are some modern treatments that can provide real results.
There are cognitive therapies that help you learn to ignore tinnitus sounds and others that use noise cancellation techniques. Hearing aids often offer relief for many individuals. A cure may be many years off, but that doesn’t mean you have to deal with tinnitus alone or unassisted. Obtaining a treatment that is effective can help you spend more time doing what you love, and less time focusing on that buzzing or ringing in your ears.