You learn to adjust to living with tinnitus. You always leave the TV 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’re always going in to try new techniques and treatments. After a while, you simply fold your tinnitus into your everyday life.
Mainly, that’s because there’s no cure for tinnitus. But that might be changing. We may be getting close to an effective and lasting cure for tinnitus according to research published in PLOS biology. For now, 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 external cause. A disorder that impacts millions of individuals, tinnitus is incredibly common.
It’s also a symptom, generally speaking, and not a cause unto itself. In other words, something causes tinnitus – there’s an underlying problem that creates tinnitus symptoms. It can be difficult to narrow down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one reason why a cure is so elusive. Tinnitus symptoms can manifest due to numerous reasons.
Even the relationship between tinnitus and hearing loss is murky. Some individuals who have tinnitus do have hearing loss but some don’t.
Inflammation: a New Culprit
Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, led a study published in PLOS Biology. Dr. Bao performed experiments on mice who had tinnitus caused by noise-induced hearing loss. And what she and her colleagues discovered indicates a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
Scans and tests done on these mice revealed that the areas of the brain responsible for listening and hearing typically had considerable inflammation. This indicates that some damage is occurring as a result of noise-induced hearing loss which we currently don’t comprehend because inflammation is the body’s response to damage.
But new forms of treatment are also made available by this knowledge of inflammation. Because inflammation is something we know how to manage. The symptoms of tinnitus cleared up when the mice were given drugs that inhibited inflammation. 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 look, you can probably look at this research and see how, eventually, there may easily be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine that, instead of investing in these various coping mechanisms, you can just take a pill in the morning and keep your tinnitus at bay.
That’s definitely the goal, but there are several huge hurdles in the way:
- The exact cause of tinnitus will differ from one individual to another; whether all or even most cases of tinnitus are connected to some sort of inflammation is still hard to identify.
- Mice were the subject of these experiments. And there’s a lot to do before this specific approach is deemed safe and approved for humans.
- We need to be sure any new strategy is safe; these inflammation blocking medicines will need to be tested over time to rule out side effects and any potential complications.
So it might be a while before we have a pill for tinnitus. But it’s a real possibility in the future. If you have tinnitus now, that represents a considerable increase in hope. And various other tinnitus treatments are also being studied. The cure for tinnitus gets closer and closer with every breakthrough and every bit of new knowledge.
Is There Anything You Can Do?
For now, people with tinnitus should feel optimistic that in the future there will be a cure for tinnitus. There are modern treatments for tinnitus that can provide genuine results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the underlying problem.
There are cognitive therapies that help you learn to ignore tinnitus sounds and others that use noise cancellation techniques. Hearing aids often provide relief for many people. A cure may be many years off, but that doesn’t mean you need to cope with tinnitus alone or unaided. Obtaining a treatment that works can help you spend more time doing things you love, and less time focusing on that buzzing or ringing in your ears.