You’re living with tinnitus and you’ve learned to adjust your life to it. In order to drown out the constant ringing, you always keep the TV on. The loud music at happy hour makes your tinnitus a lot worse so you avoid going out with your friends. You make appointments routinely to try out new therapies and new treatments. Eventually, your tinnitus just becomes something you integrate into your day-to-day life.
The main reason is that tinnitus can’t be cured. But that might be changing. We might be getting close to a reliable and permanent cure for tinnitus according to research published in PLOS biology. Until then, hearing aids can be really helpful.
Tinnitus Has a Cloudy Set of Causes
Tinnitus usually manifests as a buzzing or ringing in the ear (though, tinnitus could manifest as other sounds as well) that do not have an objective cause. A condition that impacts millions of individuals, tinnitus is extremely common.
Generally speaking, tinnitus is itself a symptom of an underlying problem and not a cause in and of itself. In other words, something causes tinnitus – there’s an underlying issue that causes 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 several reasons why tinnitus can develop.
True, most people attribute tinnitus to hearing loss of some kind, but even that relationship is murky. 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 led by Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor of physiology at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tuscon. Dr. Bao carried out experiments on mice who had tinnitus caused by noise-induced hearing loss. And the results of these experiments indicated a culprit of tinnitus: inflammation.
Scans and tests done on these mice showed that the regions of the brain in control of listening and hearing typically had considerable inflammation. This reveals that some damage is taking place as a consequence of noise-related hearing loss which we currently don’t comprehend because inflammation is the body’s reaction to damage.
But this knowledge of inflammation also leads to the potential for a new type of treatment. Because inflammation is something we know how to manage. When the mice were given drugs that inhibited the observed inflammation response, the symptoms of tinnitus went away. Or it became impossible to observe any symptoms, at least.
So is There a Magic Pill That Cures Tinnitus?
This research does appear 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 having to turn to all those coping mechanisms.
We could get there if we can tackle a few hurdles:
- Any new approach needs to be proven safe; these inflammation blocking medicines will have to be tested over time to rule out side effects and any potential complications.
- Not everyone’s tinnitus will be caused the same way; whether all or even most instances of tinnitus are related to some sort of inflammation is still difficult to know.
- Mice were the focus of these experiments. And there’s a long way to go before this particular approach is considered safe and approved for people.
So it might be a while before there’s a pill for tinnitus. But it’s a genuine possibility in the future. If you have tinnitus today, that represents a considerable increase in hope. And, of course, this approach in treating tinnitus is not the only one currently being researched. Every new development, 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 chronic buzzing or ringing in your ears now, the promise of a far-off pill may provide you with hope – but not necessarily relief. Although we don’t have a cure for tinnitus, there are some contemporary treatments that can provide real results.
There are cognitive treatments that help you learn to ignore tinnitus sounds and others that use noise cancellation strategies. Hearing aids frequently offer relief for many individuals. A cure could be a number of years off, but that doesn’t mean you have to cope with tinnitus alone or unassisted. Obtaining a treatment that is effective can help you spend more time doing things you love, and less time focusing on that buzzing or ringing in your ears.