You learn to adapt to life with tinnitus. In order to tune out the persistent ringing, you always keep the TV on. You avoid going out for happy hour with friends because the loud music at the bar makes your tinnitus worse for days. You’re always making appointments to try new techniques and therapies. Over time, you simply integrate your tinnitus into your everyday life.
Mainly, that’s because there’s no cure for tinnitus. But they may be getting close. We might be getting close to an effective and permanent cure for tinnitus according to research published in PLOS biology. Until then, hearing aids can be really helpful.
Tinnitus Has a Cloudy Set of Causes
Somebody who has tinnitus will hear a ringing or buzzing (or other noises) that don’t have an external source. Tinnitus is very common and millions of people cope with it on some level.
Generally speaking, tinnitus is itself a symptom of an underlying problem and not a cause in and of itself. Tinnitus is essentially caused by something else. It can be difficult to narrow down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one reason why a cure is so elusive. There are a number of reasons why tinnitus can develop.
True, most people attribute tinnitus to hearing loss of some kind, but even that relationship is murky. Some people who have tinnitus do have hearing loss but some don’t.
A New Culprit: Inflammation
Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, led a study published in PLOS Biology. Dr. Bao carried out experiments on mice who had tinnitus caused by noise-induced hearing loss. And what she and her colleagues found points to a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
Scans and tests done on these mice showed that the regions of the brain in control of listening and hearing persistently had significant inflammation. As inflammation is the body’s response to damage, this finding does indicate that noise-induced hearing loss might be causing some damage we don’t really understand as yet.
But new forms of treatment are also made possible by this discovery of inflammation. Because we know (broadly speaking) how to handle inflammation. When the mice were given drugs that inhibited the observed inflammation reaction, the symptoms of tinnitus disappeared. 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 view this research and see how, eventually, there might 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 big hurdles in the way:
- The exact cause of tinnitus will differ from person to person; it’s hard to know (at this time) whether all or even most tinnitus is connected to inflammation of some sort.
- Mice were the subject of these experiments. And there’s a lot to do before this particular strategy is considered safe and approved for people.
- Any new approach needs to be demonstrated to be safe; it might take some time to identify specific side effects, complications, or issues linked to these particular inflammation-blocking medications.
So, a pill for tinnitus may be a long way off. But it’s a genuine possibility in the future. If you have tinnitus now, that represents a considerable increase in hope. And, of course, this strategy in treating tinnitus is not the only one presently being explored. 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 relentless ringing or buzzing in your ears today, the potential of a far-off pill may give you hope – but not necessarily relief. Although we don’t have a cure for tinnitus, there are some modern treatments that can produce real benefits.
Some approaches include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies created to help you ignore the sounds related to your tinnitus. Hearing aids frequently offer relief for many people. A cure might be many years off, but that doesn’t mean you need to cope 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 getting the right treatment.