You’re living with tinnitus and you’ve learned to adjust your life to it. In order to tune out the continuous ringing, you always keep the TV on. 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 making appointments to try new techniques and therapies. After a while, you simply fold your tinnitus into your daily life.
The main reason is that tinnitus can’t be cured. But that may be changing. We may be getting close to an effective and lasting cure for tinnitus according to research published in PLOS biology. In the meantime, hearing aids can really help.
The Specific Causes of Tinnitus Are Unclear
Somebody who is coping with tinnitus will hear a buzzing or ringing (or other noises) that don’t have an external source. A disorder that affects millions of people, tinnitus is very common.
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 of the reasons why a cure is so evasive. There are a number of reasons why tinnitus can manifest.
Even the link between tinnitus and hearing loss is not well understood. 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 triggered by noise-induced hearing loss. And the results of these experiments indicated a culprit of tinnitus: inflammation.
According to the scans and tests done on these mice, inflammation was discovered around the areas of the brain responsible for hearing. 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 yet.
But this knowledge of inflammation also results in the potential for a new type of treatment. Because inflammation is something we know how to address. When the mice were given drugs that impeded the observed inflammation reaction, the symptoms of tinnitus went away. 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 most likely look at this research and see how, eventually, there may easily be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine that, rather than investing in these various coping mechanisms, you can simply take a pill in the morning and keep your tinnitus at bay.
That’s definitely the goal, but there are numerous huge hurdles in the way:
- Any new approach needs to be demonstrated to be safe; these inflammation blocking medications will have to be tested over time to rule out side effects and any potential complications.
- Not everyone’s tinnitus will have the same cause; it’s hard to identify (at this stage) whether all or even most tinnitus is connected to inflammation of some type.
- First, these experiments were conducted on mice. And there’s a long way to go before this particular strategy is considered safe and approved for people.
So it might be a while before we have a pill for tinnitus. But it’s not at all impossible. That’s considerable hope for your tinnitus down the road. And, of course, this strategy in treating tinnitus isn’t the only one currently being studied. Every new discovery, every new bit of knowledge, brings that cure for tinnitus just a little bit closer.
What Can You do Today?
If you have a chronic buzzing or ringing in your ears now, the promise of a far-off pill might give you hope – but not necessarily alleviation. There are contemporary treatments for tinnitus that can provide genuine results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the underlying problem.
There are cognitive treatments that help you learn to ignore tinnitus sounds and others that utilize noise cancellation strategies. Hearing aids frequently provide relief for many people. A cure might be a number of years off, but that doesn’t mean you have to cope with tinnitus alone or unassisted. Finding a treatment that works can help you spend more time doing what you love, and less time focusing on that buzzing or ringing in your ears.