You’re living with tinnitus and you’ve learned to adapt your life to it. In order to drown out the constant ringing, you always keep the TV on. You avoid 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 therapies. After a while, you simply integrate your tinnitus into your daily life.
Mainly, that’s because there’s no cure for tinnitus. But that could be changing. A study published in PLOS Biology appears to offer hope that we could be getting closer to a permanent and effective cure for tinnitus. In the meantime, hearing aids can really help.
Tinnitus Has a Cloudy Set of Causes
Tinnitus typically is experienced as a buzzing or ringing in the ear (though, tinnitus could manifest as other sounds too) that do not have an external cause. Tinnitus is really common and millions of people deal with it to some degree.
It’s also a symptom, broadly speaking, and not itself a cause. Tinnitus is essentially caused by something else. One of the reasons why a “cure” for tinnitus is elusive is that these underlying causes can be difficult to narrow down. There are several reasons why tinnitus can manifest.
Even the connection between tinnitus and hearing loss is not well understood. There’s a correlation, sure, but not all individuals who have tinnitus also have hearing loss (and vice versa).
Inflammation: a New Culprit
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. Dr. Bao performed experiments on mice that had tinnitus caused by noise-induced hearing loss. And what she and her team found points to a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
Scans and tests carried out on these mice revealed that the regions of the brain responsible for listening and hearing persistently had considerable inflammation. This suggests that some damage is taking place as a result of noise-induced hearing loss which we presently don’t comprehend because inflammation is the body’s reaction to injury.
But new kinds of treatment are also made possible by this discovery of inflammation. Because inflammation is something we know how to deal with. The symptoms of tinnitus cleared up when the mice were given drugs that impeded inflammation. Or, at least, those symptoms weren’t observable anymore.
So is There a Magic Pill That Cures Tinnitus?
If you take a long enough look, you can most likely look at this research and see how, eventually, there may easily be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine if you could just pop a pill in the morning and keep tinnitus at bay all day without needing to resort to all those coping mechanisms.
That’s certainly the goal, but there are numerous big hurdles in the way:
- First, these experiments were done on mice. Before this strategy is considered safe for humans, there’s still a substantial amount of work to do.
- Not everyone’s tinnitus will be caused the same way; whether all or even most cases of tinnitus are connected to some kind of inflammation is still hard to identify.
- We need to be sure any new strategy is safe; these inflammation blocking medications will have to be tested over time to rule out side effects and any potential concerns.
So, a pill for tinnitus may be a long way off. But it’s a genuine possibility in the future. That’s significant hope for your tinnitus down the road. And various other tinnitus treatments are also being researched. Every new breakthrough, every new bit of knowledge, brings that cure for tinnitus just a little bit closer.
What Can You do Now?
If you have a chronic ringing or buzzing in your ears today, the promise of a far-off pill may provide you with hope – but not necessarily relief. There are modern treatments for tinnitus that can produce genuine results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the underlying issue.
There are cognitive treatments that help you learn to ignore tinnitus noises and others that employ noise cancellation techniques. Hearing aids often offer relief for many people. You don’t have to go it alone despite the fact that a cure is probably several years away. Obtaining a treatment that is effective can help you spend more time doing what you love, and less time focusing on that buzzing or ringing in your ears.