You’re living with tinnitus and you’ve learned to adjust your life to it. 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 refrain from going out with your friends. You make appointments regularly to try new therapies and new techniques. After a while, you simply fold your tinnitus into your everyday life.
The primary reason is that tinnitus can’t be cured. But that could be changing. We may be getting close to an effective and lasting cure for tinnitus according to research published in PLOS biology. Until that happens, hearing aids can be really helpful.
The Exact Causes of Tinnitus Are Not Clear
Somebody who has tinnitus will hear a ringing or buzzing (or other sounds) that don’t have an external source. Tinnitus is really common and millions of people cope 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. It can be hard to narrow down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one of the reasons why a cure is so elusive. Tinnitus symptoms can develop due to a number of reasons.
True, most people attribute tinnitus to hearing loss of some kind, but even that relationship is murky. Some people who have tinnitus do have hearing loss but some don’t.
Inflammation: a New Culprit
Research published in PLOS Biology detailed a study led by Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor of physiology at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tuscon. Dr. Bao carried out experiments on mice that had tinnitus triggered by noise-induced hearing loss. And the results of these experiments indicated a culprit of tinnitus: inflammation.
Tests and scans carried out on these mice found that the regions of the brain responsible for listening and hearing persistently had significant inflammation. As inflammation is the body’s reaction to damage, this finding does indicate that noise-related hearing loss might be creating some damage we don’t really understand as of yet.
But new types of treatment are also made possible by this discovery of inflammation. Because we know (broadly speaking) how to deal with inflammation. When the mice were given drugs that inhibited the observed inflammation reaction, the symptoms of tinnitus went away. Or, at least, those symptoms were no longer observable.
So is There a Magic Pill That Cures Tinnitus?
If you take a long enough look, you can probably view this research and see how, eventually, there could 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.
We may get there if we can overcome a few hurdles:
- First, these experiments were carried out on mice. And there’s a long way to go before this particular strategy is considered safe and approved for humans.
- Any new approach needs to be demonstrated to be safe; it might take some time to identify specific side effects, complications, or problems related to these specific inflammation-blocking medicines.
- Not everyone’s tinnitus will be caused the same way; whether all or even most cases of tinnitus are linked to some kind of inflammation is still hard to identify.
So, a pill for tinnitus might be a long way off. But it’s a genuine possibility in the future. That’s considerable hope for your tinnitus down the road. And several other tinnitus treatments are also being studied. Every new development, every new bit of knowledge, brings that cure for tinnitus just a little bit closer.
What Can You do Today?
If you have a chronic ringing or buzzing in your ears now, the potential of a far-off pill might give you hope – but not necessarily alleviation. Although we don’t have a cure for tinnitus, there are some modern treatments that can produce real results.
There are cognitive therapies that help you learn to ignore tinnitus sounds and others that employ noise cancellation techniques. Hearing aids often offer relief for many individuals. A cure may be a number of years off, but that doesn’t mean you need to deal with tinnitus alone or unaided. Obtaining a treatment that is effective can help you spend more time doing what you love, and less time thinking about that buzzing or ringing in your ears.