You’re living with tinnitus and you’ve learned to adjust your life to it. In order to drown out the continuous ringing, you always leave the TV on. You avoid 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 new therapies and new treatments. After a while, you simply fold your tinnitus into your daily life.
Mostly, that’s because there isn’t a cure for tinnitus. But that may be changing. Research published in PLOS Biology seems to offer hope that we may be getting closer to a lasting and effective cure for tinnitus. For now, hearing aids can really help.
Tinnitus Has a Murky Set of Causes
Tinnitus usually is experienced as a ringing or buzzing in the ear (though, tinnitus could present as other sounds as well) that do not have an objective cause. Tinnitus is very common and millions of people deal with it to some degree.
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 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 occur.
Even the connection between tinnitus and hearing loss is unclear. There’s a connection, sure, but not all people who have tinnitus also have hearing loss (and vice versa).
A New Culprit: Inflammation
Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, led a study published in PLOS Biology. Dr. Bao performed experiments on mice who had tinnitus triggered by noise-induced hearing loss. And what she and her team discovered points to a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
According to the scans and tests carried out on these mice, inflammation was discovered around the areas of the brain responsible for listening. This reveals 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 response to damage.
But new types of treatment are also made available by this discovery of inflammation. Because inflammation is something we know how to deal with. The symptoms of tinnitus went away when the mice were given drugs that inhibited inflammation. Or it became impossible to observe any symptoms, at least.
So is There a Magic Pill That Cures Tinnitus?
If you take a long enough look, you can most likely look at this research and see how, eventually, there may easily be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine that, instead of investing in these various coping mechanisms, you can just pop a pill in the morning and keep your tinnitus at bay.
That’s definitely the goal, but there are numerous big hurdles in the way:
- Not everyone’s tinnitus will have the same cause; whether all or even most instances of tinnitus are related to some sort of inflammation is still difficult to know.
- Any new approach needs to be demonstrated to be safe; these inflammation blocking medicines will have to be tested over time to rule out side effects and any potential complications.
- First, these experiments were carried out on mice. And there’s a lot to do before this specific approach is considered safe and approved for humans.
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 substantial increase in hope. And, obviously, this strategy in treating tinnitus isn’t the only one currently being studied. The cure for tinnitus gets closer and closer with every development and every bit of new knowledge.
What Can You do Today?
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 relief. Even though we don’t have a cure for tinnitus, there are some modern treatments that can provide real results.
Some strategies include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies designed to help you ignore the sounds linked to your tinnitus. Many people also get relief with hearing aids. A cure might be many years off, but that doesn’t mean you have to deal with tinnitus by yourself or unaided. 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.