You learn to adapt to life with tinnitus. You always keep the TV on to help you tune out the persistent ringing. You refrain from going out for happy hour with coworkers because the loud music at the bar makes your tinnitus worse for days. You’re always going in to try new techniques and treatments. Ultimately, your tinnitus just becomes something you integrate into your day-to-day life.
Mainly, that’s because there isn’t a cure for tinnitus. But that might 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. In the meantime, hearing aids can really help.
The Precise Causes of Tinnitus Are Not Clear
Somebody who is coping with tinnitus will hear a buzzing or ringing (or other sounds) that don’t have an outside source. Tinnitus is very common and millions of individuals deal with it to some degree.
Generally speaking, tinnitus is itself a symptom of an underlying problem and not a cause in and of itself. Tinnitus is generally caused by something else. It can be hard to narrow down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one reason why a cure is so elusive. Tinnitus symptoms can develop due to several reasons.
True, most people attribute tinnitus to hearing loss of some sort, but even that relationship is murky. There’s a link, sure, but not all people who have tinnitus also have hearing loss (and vice versa).
A New Culprit: Inflammation
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 indicates a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
Scans and tests carried out on these mice found that the parts of the brain responsible for listening and hearing persistently had considerable inflammation. This indicates that some injury is happening as a result of noise-induced hearing loss which we currently don’t comprehend because inflammation is the body’s response 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 handle inflammation. The symptoms of tinnitus cleared up when the mice were given drugs that impeded 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 view, you can probably view this research and see how, eventually, there could easily 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 resort to all those coping mechanisms.
That’s certainly the goal, but there are a number of large hurdles in the way:
- The exact cause of tinnitus will differ from person to person; whether all or even most instances of tinnitus are linked to some sort of inflammation is still hard to identify.
- Mice were the subject of these experiments. Before this approach is considered safe for people, there’s still a significant amount of work to do.
- Any new approach needs to be demonstrated to be safe; it may take some time to determine particular side effects, complications, or problems related to these particular inflammation-blocking medications.
So it may be a while before we have a pill for tinnitus. But it’s a genuine possibility in the future. That’s significant hope for your tinnitus down the road. And, of course, this strategy in managing tinnitus is not the only one presently being researched. Every new discovery, every new bit of knowledge, brings that cure for tinnitus just a little bit closer.
What Can You do Now?
If you have a relentless ringing or buzzing in your ears now, the potential of a far-off pill may provide you with hope – but not necessarily relief. There are contemporary treatments for tinnitus that can provide genuine results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the root problem.
Some strategies include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies created to help you ignore the sounds related to your tinnitus. Hearing aids frequently provide relief for many individuals. A cure could be a number of years off, but that doesn’t mean you need to deal with tinnitus alone or unaided. Obtaining 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.