You learn to adjust to living with tinnitus. You always leave the television on to help you tune out the constant ringing. The loud music at happy hour makes your tinnitus much worse so you refrain from going out with your coworkers. You’re always going in to try new techniques and treatments. Eventually, 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 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. In the meantime, hearing aids can really help.
Tinnitus Has a Cloudy Set of Causes
Tinnitus usually manifests as a buzzing or ringing in the ear (though, tinnitus could manifest as other sounds too) that do not have an external cause. A disorder that affects millions of people, tinnitus is very common.
It’s also a symptom, generally speaking, and not itself a cause. Tinnitus is generally caused by something else. One of the reasons why a “cure” for tinnitus is elusive is that these underlying causes can be hard to narrow down. There are a number of reasons why tinnitus can occur.
Even the link between tinnitus and hearing loss is not well understood. Some people who have tinnitus do have hearing loss but some don’t.
A New Culprit: Inflammation
Research published in PLOS Biology outlined a study directed by Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor of physiology at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tuscon. Mice who had noise-induced tinnitus were experimented on by Dr. Bao. And the results of these experiments indicated a culprit of tinnitus: inflammation.
Scans and tests carried out on these mice found that the parts of the brain responsible for listening and hearing consistently had considerable inflammation. As inflammation is the body’s reaction to damage, this finding does indicate that noise-related hearing loss could be creating some damage we don’t fully understand as of yet.
But this discovery of inflammation also results in the possibility of a new form of treatment. Because inflammation is something we know how to address. The symptoms of tinnitus cleared up when the mice were given drugs that impeded inflammation. Or it became impossible to observe any symptoms, at least.
Does This Mean There’s a Pill For Tinnitus?
This research does appear to suggest that, eventually, there might 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 needing to turn to all those coping mechanisms.
That’s definitely the goal, but there are numerous big hurdles in the way:
- The exact cause of tinnitus will be distinct from person to person; it’s difficult to know (at this stage) whether all or even most tinnitus is linked to inflammation of some type.
- First, these experiments were conducted on mice. Before this approach is considered safe for humans, there’s still a substantial amount of work to do.
- We need to make sure any new approach is safe; it may take some time to determine particular side effects, complications, or issues related to these particular inflammation-blocking medicines.
So it may be a while before there’s a pill for tinnitus. But it’s not at all impossible. That’s considerable hope for your tinnitus down the road. And various other tinnitus treatments are also being studied. 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 buzzing or ringing in your ears today, the potential of a far-off pill may provide you with hope – but not necessarily alleviation. Although we don’t have a cure for tinnitus, there are some contemporary treatments that can produce real results.
There are cognitive treatments that help you learn to ignore tinnitus sounds and others that use noise cancellation strategies. Hearing aids frequently provide relief for many people. You don’t have to go it alone despite the fact that a cure is probably several years away. Spending less time thinking about the ringing in your ears and more time doing the things you love can happen for you by finding the right treatment.