You’re living with tinnitus and you’ve learned to adapt your life to it. In order to tune out the continuous ringing, you always leave the TV on. 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 making appointments to try new techniques and treatments. Ultimately, your tinnitus just becomes something you integrate into your day-to-day life.
Mainly, that’s because there isn’t a cure for tinnitus. But that may be changing. Research published in PLOS Biology appears to offer hope that we could be getting closer to a permanent and reliable cure for tinnitus. In the meantime, hearing aids can really be helpful.
Tinnitus Has a Murky Set of Causes
Someone who has tinnitus will hear a ringing or buzzing (or other sounds) that don’t have an outside source. Tinnitus is really common and millions of individuals cope with it to some degree.
Generally speaking, tinnitus is itself a symptom of an underlying problem and not a cause in and of itself. In other words, something causes tinnitus – there’s a root problem that produces tinnitus symptoms. It can be difficult to narrow down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one of the reasons why a cure is so evasive. Tinnitus symptoms can occur due to a number of reasons.
Even the relationship between tinnitus and hearing loss is murky. There’s a connection, sure, but not all people 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. Dr. Bao performed experiments on mice who had tinnitus triggered by noise-induced hearing loss. And the results of these experiments indicated a culprit of tinnitus: inflammation.
According to the scans and tests done on these mice, inflammation was discovered in the areas of the brain responsible for hearing. This reveals that some damage is happening as a result of noise-induced hearing loss which we currently don’t comprehend because inflammation is the body’s reaction to damage.
But this knowledge of inflammation also leads to the potential for a new form of treatment. Because inflammation is something we know how to address. When the mice were given drugs that inhibited the observed inflammation response, the symptoms of tinnitus disappeared. Or it became impossible to detect any symptoms, at least.
Does This Mean There’s a Pill For Tinnitus?
If you take a long enough view, you can probably look at this research and see how, one day, 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 having to turn to all those coping mechanisms.
That’s definitely the goal, but there are a number of big hurdles in the way:
- The precise cause of tinnitus will differ 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. And there’s a long way to go before this specific approach is deemed safe and approved for people.
- Any new approach needs to be proven safe; these inflammation blocking medications will have to be tested over time to rule out side effects and any potential complications.
So it may be a while before we have a pill for tinnitus. But it’s a real possibility in the future. If you have tinnitus today, that represents a considerable increase in hope. And numerous other tinnitus treatments are also being researched. The cure for tinnitus gets closer and closer with every discovery and every bit of new knowledge.
Is There Anything You Can Do?
If you have a persistent ringing or buzzing in your ears today, the promise of a far-off pill might give you hope – but not necessarily relief. There are contemporary treatments for tinnitus that can provide genuine results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the root issue.
There are cognitive treatments that help you learn to ignore tinnitus sounds and others that utilize noise cancellation techniques. Many people also find relief with hearing aids. A cure might be many years off, but that doesn’t mean you have to cope with tinnitus by yourself or unaided. Obtaining a treatment that works can help you spend more time doing things you love, and less time thinking about that buzzing or ringing in your ears.