You’re living with tinnitus and you’ve learned to adjust your life to it. You always keep the TV on to help you tune out the persistent ringing. 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 going in to try new techniques and therapies. Eventually, your tinnitus just becomes something you fold into your day-to-day life.
Mostly, that’s because there’s no cure for tinnitus. But they could be getting close. We might be getting close to an effective and permanent cure for tinnitus according to research published in PLOS biology. In the meantime, hearing aids can really help.
The Exact Causes of Tinnitus Are Not Clear
Tinnitus typically is experienced as a ringing or buzzing in the ear (though, tinnitus could present as other sounds as well) that do not have an external cause. A condition that affects millions of people, tinnitus is very common.
Generally speaking, tinnitus is itself a symptom of an underlying condition and not a cause in and of itself. Basically, something causes tinnitus – there’s an underlying problem that creates tinnitus symptoms. One of the reasons why a “cure” for tinnitus is elusive is that these root causes can be hard to pin down. There are several reasons why tinnitus can develop.
Even the relationship between tinnitus and hearing loss is unclear. There’s a connection, sure, but not all individuals who have tinnitus also have hearing loss (and vice versa).
A New Culprit: Inflammation
Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, directed a study published in PLOS Biology. Mice with noise-related tinnitus were experimented on by Dr. Bao. And what she and her team found points to a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
Scans and tests carried out on these mice showed that the areas of the brain responsible for listening and hearing persistently had significant inflammation. As inflammation is the body’s response to damage, this finding does indicate that noise-related hearing loss might be causing some damage we don’t really comprehend as of yet.
But this knowledge of inflammation also results in the possibility of a new form of treatment. Because we know (broadly speaking) how to manage inflammation. When the mice were given drugs that inhibited the observed inflammation response, the symptoms of tinnitus disappeared. Or, at least, those symptoms were no longer observable.
So is There a Magic Pill That Cures Tinnitus?
If you take a long enough look, you can probably view this research and see how, eventually, there could easily be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine that, instead of investing in these various coping mechanisms, you can simply pop a pill in the morning and keep your tinnitus at bay.
We may get there if we can tackle a few hurdles:
- Any new approach needs to be demonstrated to be safe; it may take some time to identify particular side effects, complications, or problems related to these specific inflammation-blocking medicines.
- The exact cause of tinnitus will be distinct from person to person; it’s hard to identify (at this point) whether all or even most tinnitus is related to inflammation of some sort.
- Mice were the subject of these experiments. Before this strategy is considered safe for humans, there’s still a significant amount of work to do.
So, a pill for tinnitus might be a long way off. But it’s not at all impossible. That’s considerable hope for your tinnitus down the road. And, of course, this approach in managing tinnitus is not the only one presently being explored. Every new development, every new bit of knowledge, brings that cure for tinnitus just a little bit closer.
What Can You do Now?
In the meantime, 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 produce genuine results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the underlying issue.
Some strategies include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies designed to help you ignore the sounds linked to your tinnitus. Many people also get relief with hearing aids. You don’t need to go it alone despite the fact that a cure is probably several years away. Finding 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.