You’re living with tinnitus and you’ve learned to adapt your life to it. In order to tune out the constant ringing, you always keep the TV on. You refrain from going out for happy hour with friends because the loud music at the bar makes your tinnitus worse for days. You’re always making appointments to try new techniques and therapies. Eventually, your tinnitus just becomes something you fold into your day-to-day life.
Mainly, 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 reliable cure for tinnitus. For now, hearing aids can really help.
Tinnitus Has a Cloudy Set of Causes
Somebody who has tinnitus will hear a ringing or buzzing (or other noises) that don’t have an outside source. A condition that affects millions of people, tinnitus is incredibly common.
It’s also a symptom, broadly speaking, and not a cause unto itself. Tinnitus is generally caused by something else. One reason why a “cure” for tinnitus is evasive is that these root causes can be hard to narrow down. There are a number of reasons why tinnitus can occur.
True, most people attribute tinnitus to hearing loss of some sort, but even that relationship is unclear. 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 outlined a study led 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 the results of these experiments pointed to a culprit of tinnitus: inflammation.
Tests and scans carried out on these mice revealed that the parts of the brain responsible for listening and hearing persistently had significant inflammation. As inflammation is the body’s reaction to damage, this finding does suggest that noise-related hearing loss may be creating some damage we don’t fully understand as yet.
But this discovery of inflammation also results in the possibility of a new type of treatment. Because inflammation is something we know how to address. When the mice were given drugs that inhibited the observed inflammation response, the symptoms of tinnitus disappeared. Or it became impossible to observe any symptoms, at least.
Does This Mean There’s a Pill For Tinnitus?
If you take a long enough view, you can probably look at this research and see how, one day, there could 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 definitely the goal, but there are numerous large hurdles in the way:
- First, these experiments were done on mice. Before this strategy is considered safe for humans, there’s still a substantial amount of work to do.
- The precise cause of tinnitus will be distinct from person to person; it’s hard to identify (at this stage) whether all or even most tinnitus is connected to inflammation of some type.
- Any new approach needs to be proven safe; these inflammation blocking medicines will need to be tested over time to rule out side effects and any potential complications.
So, a pill for tinnitus might be a long way off. But it’s not at all impossible. That’s significant hope for your tinnitus down the road. And numerous other tinnitus treatments are also being researched. The cure for tinnitus gets closer and closer with every development and every bit of new knowledge.
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 may provide you with hope – but not necessarily alleviation. There are contemporary treatments for tinnitus that can produce real results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the underlying problem.
Some strategies include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies created to help you ignore the sounds linked to your tinnitus. Many people also get relief with hearing aids. A cure may be a number of years off, but that doesn’t mean you have to deal with tinnitus by yourself or unassisted. Spending less time worrying about the ringing in your ears and more time doing the things you love can happen for you by finding the right treatment.