You’re living with tinnitus and you’ve learned to adjust your life to it. In order to tune out the constant ringing, you always leave the TV on. The loud music at happy hour makes your tinnitus much worse so you avoid going out with your coworkers. You make appointments regularly to try new therapies and new treatments. Over time, you simply integrate your tinnitus into your everyday life.
The primary reason is that tinnitus has no cure. But that might be changing. A study published in PLOS Biology appears to offer hope that we could be getting closer to a permanent and reliable cure for tinnitus. For now, hearing aids can really be helpful.
The Specific Causes of Tinnitus Are Unclear
Somebody who is coping with tinnitus will hear a ringing or buzzing (or other noises) that don’t have an outside source. Tinnitus is very common and millions of individuals cope with it to some degree.
It’s also a symptom, generally speaking, and not itself a cause. In other words, something causes tinnitus – there’s an underlying issue that produces tinnitus symptoms. It can be hard to narrow down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one of the reasons why a cure is so evasive. Tinnitus symptoms can develop due to several reasons.
Even the link between tinnitus and hearing loss is unclear. Some people 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 that had tinnitus caused by noise-induced hearing loss. And the results of these experiments pointed to a culprit of tinnitus: inflammation.
Tests and scans carried out on these mice found that the areas of the brain in control of listening and hearing typically had considerable inflammation. This suggests that some damage is occurring as a consequence of noise-related hearing loss which we currently don’t understand because inflammation is the body’s reaction to injury.
But this knowledge of inflammation also results in the potential for a new form of treatment. Because inflammation is something we know how to manage. The symptoms of tinnitus went away when the mice were given drugs that inhibited inflammation. Or, at least, those symptoms were no longer observable.
So is There a Magic Pill That Cures Tinnitus?
This research does seem to suggest that, eventually, there might actually be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine if you could just pop a pill in the morning and keep tinnitus at bay all day without having to resort to all those coping mechanisms.
That’s definitely the goal, but there are a number of big hurdles in the way:
- Mice were the focus of these experiments. Before this strategy is considered safe for humans, there’s still a substantial amount of work to do.
- We need to make sure any new strategy is safe; it might take some time to identify specific side effects, complications, or issues linked to these particular inflammation-blocking medications.
- Not everyone’s tinnitus will have the same cause; it’s difficult to identify (at this point) whether all or even most tinnitus is connected to inflammation of some sort.
So it might be a while before there’s a pill for tinnitus. But it’s no longer impossible. That’s considerable hope for your tinnitus down the road. And various other tinnitus treatments are also being studied. The cure for tinnitus gets closer and closer with every breakthrough and every bit of new knowledge.
Is There Anything You Can Do?
If you have a chronic buzzing or ringing in your ears today, the promise of a far-off pill may provide you with hope – but not necessarily relief. Although we don’t have a cure for tinnitus, there are some modern treatments that can produce real results.
There are cognitive treatments that help you learn to ignore tinnitus noises and others that utilize noise cancellation strategies. Hearing aids frequently provide relief for many individuals. A cure could be a number of years off, but that doesn’t mean you need to deal with tinnitus by yourself or unassisted. Finding a treatment that is effective can help you spend more time doing things you love, and less time focusing on that buzzing or ringing in your ears.