You’re living with tinnitus and you’ve learned to adjust your life to it. You always leave the TV on to help you tune out the persistent ringing. 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 going in to try new techniques and treatments. Eventually, your tinnitus just becomes something you integrate into your daily life.
The primary reason is that tinnitus has no cure. But they may be getting close. Research published in PLOS Biology appears to offer hope that we may be getting closer to a lasting and effective cure for tinnitus. In the meantime, hearing aids can really be helpful.
The Specific Causes of Tinnitus Are Not Clear
Somebody who is coping with tinnitus will hear a ringing or buzzing (or other noises) that don’t have an outside source. Tinnitus is quite common and millions of individuals cope with it on some level.
It’s also a symptom, broadly speaking, and not itself a cause. In other words, something causes tinnitus – there’s an underlying issue that causes tinnitus symptoms. It can be hard to pin 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 occur.
Even the connection between tinnitus and hearing loss is murky. 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 who had noise-related tinnitus were experimented on by Dr. Bao. And what she and her team discovered indicates a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
According to the tests and scans performed on these mice, inflammation was observed in the areas of the brain responsible for hearing. This indicates that some damage is happening as a consequence of noise-induced hearing loss which we presently don’t understand because inflammation is the body’s response to injury.
But new kinds of treatment are also made possible by this discovery of inflammation. Because we know (generally speaking) how to handle inflammation. The symptoms of tinnitus went away when the mice were given drugs that impeded inflammation. Or, at least, those symptoms were no longer observable.
Does This Mean There’s a Pill For Tinnitus?
This research does seem to suggest that, eventually, there may actually 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.
That’s certainly the goal, but there are several large hurdles in the way:
- First, these experiments were done on mice. And there’s a lot to do before this particular approach is deemed safe and approved for humans.
- Any new approach needs to be proven safe; it may take some time to determine specific side effects, complications, or issues linked to these specific inflammation-blocking medicines.
- Not everybody’s tinnitus will be caused the same way; it’s hard to identify (at this time) whether all or even most tinnitus is connected to inflammation of some kind.
So it may be a while before there’s a pill for tinnitus. But it’s not at all impossible. If you have tinnitus today, that represents a considerable increase in hope. And several 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 buzzing or ringing in your ears now, the promise of a far-off pill might provide you with hope – but not necessarily relief. There are modern treatments for tinnitus that can provide real results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the underlying issue.
Some strategies include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies created to help you ignore the sounds related to your tinnitus. Many individuals also find relief with hearing aids. A cure could be a number of years off, but that doesn’t mean you have to deal with tinnitus alone or unassisted. Obtaining a treatment that is effective can help you spend more time doing things you love, and less time thinking about that buzzing or ringing in your ears.