You’re living with tinnitus and you’ve learned to adapt your life to it. In order to drown out the persistent ringing, you always keep 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 make appointments regularly to try out new therapies and new techniques. Eventually, your tinnitus just becomes something you fold into your daily life.
The primary reason is that tinnitus can’t be cured. But they could be getting close. We might be getting close to a reliable and lasting cure for tinnitus according to research published in PLOS biology. Until then, hearing aids can be really helpful.
The Precise Causes of Tinnitus Are Unclear
Tinnitus usually is experienced as a buzzing or ringing in the ear (though, tinnitus could present as other sounds as well) that do not have an external cause. A disorder that impacts millions of individuals, tinnitus is extremely common.
Generally speaking, tinnitus is itself a symptom of an underlying problem and not a cause in and of itself. Tinnitus is essentially caused by something else. It can be difficult 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 develop.
True, most people attribute tinnitus to hearing loss of some sort, but even that relationship is murky. Some people who have tinnitus do have hearing loss but some don’t.
A New Culprit: Inflammation
Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, conducted 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 pointed to a culprit of tinnitus: inflammation.
Scans and tests carried out on these mice showed that the parts of the brain responsible for listening and hearing consistently had considerable inflammation. This suggests that some damage is happening as a result of noise-related hearing loss which we presently don’t comprehend because inflammation is the body’s response to damage.
But new forms of treatment are also made available by this discovery of inflammation. Because we know (broadly speaking) how to manage inflammation. When the mice were given drugs that impeded the observed inflammation response, the symptoms of tinnitus disappeared. Or, at least, those symptoms weren’t observable anymore.
So is There a Magic Pill That Cures Tinnitus?
This research does seem to suggest that, eventually, there may actually be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine if you could just take a pill in the morning and keep tinnitus at bay all day without having to turn to all those coping mechanisms.
We could get there if we can tackle a few hurdles:
- 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.
- The precise cause of tinnitus will differ from one individual to another; it’s difficult to identify (at this time) whether all or even most tinnitus is connected to inflammation of some sort.
- We need to make sure any new approach is safe; it may take some time to identify particular side effects, complications, or issues linked to these specific inflammation-blocking medicines.
So, a pill for tinnitus might be a long way off. But it’s not at all impossible. If you have tinnitus now, that represents a substantial increase in hope. And, obviously, this approach in managing tinnitus is not the only one currently being studied. The cure for tinnitus gets closer and closer with every breakthrough and every bit of new knowledge.
What Can You do Now?
If you have a persistent buzzing or ringing in your ears today, the potential of a far-off pill might provide you with hope – but not necessarily relief. There are contemporary treatments for tinnitus that can produce real results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the underlying problem.
Some approaches include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies designed to help you ignore the sounds connected to your tinnitus. Hearing aids often provide relief for many individuals. A cure may be many years off, but that doesn’t mean you have to cope with tinnitus alone or unassisted. Spending less time thinking about the ringing in your ears and more time doing the things you love can happen for you by getting the right treatment.