You learn to adapt to living with tinnitus. 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 treatments. After a while, you simply integrate your tinnitus into your daily life.
The primary reason is that tinnitus has no cure. But that may be changing. Research published in PLOS Biology appears to give hope that we may be getting closer to a lasting and reliable cure for tinnitus. Until then, hearing aids can be really helpful.
The Precise Causes of Tinnitus Are Unclear
Tinnitus typically manifests as a ringing or buzzing in the ear (though, tinnitus could present as other sounds too) that do not have an objective cause. Tinnitus is really common and millions of people deal with it on some level.
Generally speaking, tinnitus is itself a symptom of an underlying condition and not a cause in and of itself. In other words, something causes tinnitus – there’s an underlying problem that produces tinnitus symptoms. It can be hard to pin down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one reason why a cure is so evasive. There are a number of reasons why tinnitus can occur.
Even the relationship between tinnitus and hearing loss is unclear. There’s a correlation, 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 colleagues found indicates a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
Tests and scans done on these mice revealed that the regions of the brain responsible for listening and hearing consistently had considerable inflammation. As inflammation is the body’s response to damage, this finding does indicate that noise-induced hearing loss could be causing some damage we don’t really comprehend yet.
But new kinds of treatment are also made available by this knowledge of inflammation. Because inflammation is something we know how to manage. When the mice were given drugs that impeded the observed inflammation response, the symptoms of tinnitus went away. Or it became impossible to detect any symptoms, at least.
So is There a Magic Pill That Cures Tinnitus?
If you take a long enough view, you can most likely view this research and see how, eventually, there may easily be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine if you could just take a pill in the morning and keep tinnitus at bay all day without having to turn to all those coping mechanisms.
That’s certainly the goal, but there are several large hurdles in the way:
- Any new approach needs to be demonstrated to be safe; these inflammation blocking medicines will have to be tested over time to rule out side effects and any potential concerns.
- Not everyone’s tinnitus will be caused the same way; whether all or even most cases of tinnitus are related to some kind of inflammation is still hard to identify.
- First, these experiments were done on mice. And there’s a long way to go before this particular approach is deemed safe and approved for people.
So it may be a while before we have a pill for tinnitus. But it’s not at all impossible. That’s significant hope for your tinnitus down the road. And, obviously, this approach in treating tinnitus is not the only one presently being researched. The cure for tinnitus gets closer and closer with every breakthrough and every bit of new knowledge.
What Can You do Now?
If you have a relentless buzzing or ringing in your ears now, the promise of a far-off pill might provide you with hope – but not necessarily relief. Even though we don’t have a cure for tinnitus, there are some contemporary treatments that can provide real benefits.
Some strategies include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies designed to help you ignore the sounds linked to your tinnitus. Many individuals also find relief with hearing aids. A cure may be many years off, but that doesn’t mean you have to deal with tinnitus by yourself or unassisted. Spending less time worrying about the ringing in your ears and more time doing the things you love can happen for you by finding the right treatment.