Hearing Health Blog

Man suffering from ringing in the ears reads about new research into the causes of tinnitus.

Figuring out how to cope with tinnitus is often how you manage it. To help tune it out you keep the television on. And loud music at bars is making your tinnitus worse so you avoid going dancing. You consult with experts constantly to try out new therapies and new strategies. You just work tinnitus into your daily life eventually.

Tinnitus doesn’t have a cure so you feel powerless. But that could be changing. New research published in PLOS Biology suggests that an effective and permanent cure for tinnitus could be coming.

Causes of Tinnitus

You’re dealing with tinnitus if you hear a ringing or buzzing (or occasionally other noises) with no apparent cause. A problem that impacts over 50 million people in the United States alone, it’s incredibly common for people to have tinnitus.

It’s also a symptom, broadly speaking, and not a cause in and of itself. In other words, tinnitus is caused by something else – there’s an underlying issue that brings about tinnitus symptoms. One of the reasons why a “cure” for tinnitus is evasive is that these underlying causes can be hard to narrow down. Tinnitus symptoms can appear due to a number of reasons.

It is true, the majority of people connect tinnitus to hearing loss of some kind, but even that link is not clear. There’s a relationship, certainly, but not all people who suffer from tinnitus also have hearing loss (and vice versa).

A New Culprit: Inflammation

The new study published in PLOS Biology highlighted a study performed by Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor of physiology at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tuscon. Dr. Bao performed experiments on mice who had tinnitus induced by noise-induced loss of hearing. And a new culprit for tinnitus was revealed by her and her team: inflammation.

Based on the tests and scans performed on these mice, inflammation was found around the parts of the brain responsible for hearing. As inflammation is the body’s reaction to injury, this finding does suggest that noise-induced hearing loss may be creating some damage we don’t completely understand yet.

But this discovery of inflammation also brings about the opportunity for a new form of therapy. Because we understand (generally speaking) how to handle inflammation. When the mice were given medication that impeded the detected inflammation reaction, the symptoms of tinnitus faded away. Or, at least, those symptoms were no longer observable.

Does This Mean There’s a Pill for Tinnitus?

One day there will most likely be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine if keeping your tinnitus under control was a routine matter of taking your morning medication and you could escape from all of the coping mechanisms you have to do now.

That’s definitely the goal, but there are several substantial obstacles in the way:

  • All new approaches need to be proven safe; it might take a while to identify specific side effects, complications, or challenges related to these specific medications that block inflammation.
  • To start with, these experiments were conducted on mice. And there’s a long way to go before this particular strategy is safe and approved for people.
  • Not everybody’s tinnitus will happen the same way; it’s difficult to know (at this point) whether all or even most tinnitus is related to inflammation of some type.

So it could be pretty far off before we get a pill to treat tinnitus. But it isn’t impossible. That should bring anybody who has tinnitus substantial hope. And other techniques are also being studied. Every new discovery, every new bit of understanding, brings that cure for tinnitus a little bit nearer.

Ca Anything be Done Now?

You may have hope for an eventual tinnitus pill but that won’t offer you any relief for your chronic buzzing or ringing now. There are current treatments for tinnitus that can produce real results, even if they don’t really “cure” the root problem.

Some strategies include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies created to help you brush aside the noises connected to your tinnitus. You don’t need to wait for a cure to find relief, you can find help coping with your tinnitus right now. Discovering a treatment that works can help you spend more time doing what you enjoy, and less time thinking about that buzzing or ringing in your ears. Schedule your appointment right away.

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