You learn to adjust to living with tinnitus. You always leave the TV 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’re always making appointments to try new techniques and treatments. Eventually, your tinnitus just becomes something you integrate into your day-to-day life.
The main reason is that tinnitus has no cure. But that could be changing. A study published in PLOS Biology appears 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 present as other sounds too) that do not have an objective cause. Tinnitus is very common and millions of individuals cope with it to some degree.
It’s also a symptom, broadly speaking, and not a cause unto itself. Tinnitus is essentially caused by something else. It can be difficult 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 occur.
True, most people attribute tinnitus to hearing loss of some sort, but even that relationship is unclear. Some people who have tinnitus do have hearing loss but some don’t.
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. Mice with noise-related tinnitus were experimented on by Dr. Bao. And what she and her colleagues found points to a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
According to the tests and scans performed on these mice, inflammation was seen around the areas of the brain responsible for hearing. This reveals that some injury is taking place as a result of noise-related hearing loss which we currently don’t understand because inflammation is the body’s reaction to damage.
But this discovery of inflammation also leads to the potential for a new kind of treatment. Because we know (broadly speaking) how to deal with inflammation. When the mice were given drugs that impeded the observed inflammation reaction, the symptoms of tinnitus went away. Or, at least, those symptoms were no longer observable.
Does This Mean There’s a Pill For Tinnitus?
This research does appear to indicate that, eventually, there might actually be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine that, instead of investing in these numerous coping mechanisms, you can just pop a pill in the morning and keep your tinnitus at bay.
We may get there if we can tackle a few hurdles:
- Mice were the subject of these experiments. And there’s a long way to go before this particular approach is deemed safe and approved for humans.
- We need to make sure any new strategy is safe; these inflammation blocking medications will need to be tested over time to rule out side effects and any potential concerns.
- Not everyone’s tinnitus will have the same cause; it’s difficult to identify (at this time) whether all or even most tinnitus is connected to inflammation of some sort.
So it might be a while before there’s a pill for tinnitus. But it’s a real possibility in the future. That’s considerable hope for your tinnitus down the road. And several other tinnitus treatments are also being studied. The cure for tinnitus gets closer and closer with every discovery and every bit of new knowledge.
Is There Anything You Can Do?
If you have a chronic ringing or buzzing in your ears today, the promise of a far-off pill may provide you with hope – but not necessarily relief. There are modern treatments for tinnitus that can provide genuine results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the root problem.
There are cognitive treatments that help you learn to ignore tinnitus sounds and others that utilize noise cancellation strategies. Many people also find relief with hearing aids. You don’t have to go it alone despite the fact that a cure is probably 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.