You learn to adapt to life with tinnitus. You always keep the television on to help you tune out the constant ringing. You refrain from going out for happy hour with friends because the loud music at the bar makes your tinnitus worse for days. You make appointments regularly to try out new therapies and new techniques. After a while, you simply integrate your tinnitus into your everyday life.
The main reason is that tinnitus has no cure. 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. In the meantime, hearing aids can really help.
The Exact Causes of Tinnitus Are Unclear
Someone who has tinnitus will hear a ringing or buzzing (or other sounds) that don’t have an external source. A disorder that impacts millions of people, tinnitus is extremely common.
It’s also a symptom, generally speaking, and not itself a cause. Tinnitus is essentially caused by something else. One of the reasons why a “cure” for tinnitus is evasive is that these underlying causes can be hard to pin down. There are several reasons why tinnitus can manifest.
True, most individuals attribute tinnitus to hearing loss of some type, but even that relationship is unclear. Some individuals who have tinnitus do have hearing loss but some don’t.
Inflammation: a New Culprit
Research published in PLOS Biology detailed a study led by Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor of physiology at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tuscon. Dr. Bao performed experiments on mice that had tinnitus caused by noise-induced hearing loss. And the results of these experiments pointed to a culprit of tinnitus: inflammation.
Scans and tests done on these mice showed that the areas of the brain responsible for listening and hearing persistently had significant inflammation. This indicates that some damage is occurring as a consequence of noise-related hearing loss which we currently don’t understand because inflammation is the body’s response to damage.
But this knowledge of inflammation also brings about the potential for a new kind of treatment. Because we know (broadly speaking) how to manage inflammation. When the mice were given drugs that impeded the observed inflammation response, the symptoms of tinnitus disappeared. Or, at least, those symptoms weren’t observable anymore.
Does This Mean There’s a Pill For Tinnitus?
This research does appear to suggest that, in the long run, there might actually be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine if you could just take a pill in the morning and keep tinnitus at bay all day without needing to turn to all those coping mechanisms.
That’s certainly the goal, but there are a number of large hurdles in the way:
- Mice were the focus of these experiments. Before this strategy is considered safe for humans, there’s still a significant amount of work to do.
- We need to make sure any new approach is safe; it could take some time to identify specific side effects, complications, or problems linked to these particular inflammation-blocking medicines.
- The exact cause of tinnitus will be distinct from person to person; it’s hard to identify (at this time) whether all or even most tinnitus is connected to inflammation of some kind.
So it may be a while before there’s a pill for tinnitus. But it’s not at all impossible. That’s considerable hope for your tinnitus down the road. And several 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?
In the meantime, individuals who suffered from tinnitus should feel hopeful that in the future there will be a cure for tinnitus. There are contemporary treatments for tinnitus that can provide real results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the root issue.
Some strategies include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies designed to help you ignore the sounds connected to your tinnitus. Hearing aids often offer relief for many people. A cure might be many years off, but that doesn’t mean you have to deal with tinnitus alone or unaided. Spending less time worrying about the ringing in your ears and more time doing the things you love can happen for you by getting the right treatment.