You learn to adjust to living with tinnitus. In order to drown out the persistent ringing, you always leave the TV on. The loud music at happy hour makes your tinnitus a lot worse so you avoid going out with your coworkers. You make appointments regularly to try out new therapies and new techniques. Ultimately, your tinnitus just becomes something you fold into your day-to-day life.
Mainly, that’s because there isn’t a cure for tinnitus. But they could be getting close. We may be getting close to a reliable and permanent cure for tinnitus according to research published in PLOS biology. Until then, hearing aids can be really helpful.
Tinnitus Has a Murky Set of Causes
Tinnitus typically 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. Tinnitus is really common and millions of individuals deal with it to some degree.
Generally speaking, tinnitus is itself a symptom of an underlying condition and not a cause in and of itself. Tinnitus is generally caused by something else. One of the reasons why a “cure” for tinnitus is evasive is that these root causes can be difficult to narrow down. Tinnitus symptoms can occur due to numerous reasons.
True, most people attribute tinnitus to hearing loss of some kind, but even that relationship is unclear. Some individuals who have tinnitus do have hearing loss but some don’t.
Inflammation: a New Culprit
Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, conducted a study published in PLOS Biology. Dr. Bao carried out experiments on mice that had tinnitus triggered by noise-induced hearing loss. And what she and her team discovered points to a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
According to the scans and tests done on these mice, inflammation was observed in the areas of the brain responsible for hearing. As inflammation is the body’s reaction to damage, this finding does suggest that noise-induced hearing loss could be creating some damage we don’t really comprehend yet.
But this knowledge of inflammation also results in the potential for a new kind of treatment. Because inflammation is something we know how to manage. 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 might 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 turn to all those coping mechanisms.
That’s definitely the goal, but there are several huge hurdles in the way:
- Any new approach needs to be demonstrated to be safe; it might take some time to identify particular side effects, complications, or issues connected to these specific inflammation-blocking medications.
- Not everybody’s tinnitus will have the same cause; whether all or even most instances of tinnitus are related to some kind of inflammation is still hard to know.
- First, these experiments were conducted on mice. And there’s a lot to do before this particular approach is deemed safe and approved for humans.
So it might be a while before we have a pill for tinnitus. But it’s no longer impossible. If you have tinnitus now, that represents a substantial increase in hope. And, obviously, this strategy in treating tinnitus isn’t the only one currently being explored. Every new development, every new bit of knowledge, brings that cure for tinnitus just a little bit closer.
What Can You do Now?
If you have a persistent ringing or buzzing in your ears now, the potential 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 methods include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies designed to help you ignore the sounds connected to your tinnitus. Many individuals also get relief with hearing aids. A cure may be a number of years off, but that doesn’t mean you need to deal with tinnitus by yourself or unassisted. Spending less time worrying about the ringing in your ears and more time doing the things you love can happen for you by getting the right treatment.