You’re living with tinnitus and you’ve learned to adjust your life to it. You always leave the television on to help you tune out the continuous ringing. The loud music at happy hour makes your tinnitus much 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 they may be getting close. We may be getting close to a reliable and permanent cure for tinnitus according to research published in PLOS biology. In the meantime, hearing aids can really help.
Tinnitus Has a Murky Set of Causes
Tinnitus typically manifests as a ringing or buzzing in the ear (though, tinnitus could manifest as other sounds as well) that do not have an objective cause. A disorder that affects millions of people, tinnitus is incredibly common.
It’s also a symptom, generally speaking, and not a cause unto itself. In other words, something causes tinnitus – there’s a root problem that creates tinnitus symptoms. It can be difficult to pin down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one reason why a cure is so evasive. There are several reasons why tinnitus can manifest.
Even the connection between tinnitus and hearing loss is not well understood. There’s a correlation, sure, but not all individuals who have tinnitus also have hearing loss (and vice versa).
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 performed experiments on mice that had tinnitus triggered by noise-induced hearing loss. And what she and her colleagues found points to a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
According to the scans and tests performed on these mice, inflammation was seen in the areas of the brain responsible for hearing. As inflammation is the body’s reaction to damage, this finding does indicate that noise-induced hearing loss may be creating some damage we don’t fully understand as of yet.
But new forms of treatment are also made possible by this discovery of inflammation. Because inflammation is something we know how to address. The symptoms of tinnitus went away when the mice were given drugs that impeded inflammation. Or it became impossible to detect any symptoms, at least.
Does This Mean There’s a Pill For Tinnitus?
This research does appear to indicate that, in the long run, 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 overcome a few hurdles:
- First, these experiments were carried out on mice. And there’s a long way to go before this specific approach is considered safe and approved for humans.
- We need to make sure any new approach is safe; it might take some time to identify specific side effects, complications, or issues related to these specific inflammation-blocking medicines.
- The precise cause of tinnitus will differ from one individual to another; it’s difficult to know (at this stage) whether all or even most tinnitus is linked to inflammation of some kind.
So it might be a while before there’s a pill for tinnitus. But it’s a real possibility in the future. If you have tinnitus today, that represents a significant increase in hope. And numerous 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 Now?
If you have a chronic ringing or buzzing in your ears now, the promise of a far-off pill may provide you with hope – but not necessarily relief. Even though we don’t have a cure for tinnitus, there are some modern treatments that can provide real benefits.
Some strategies 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 people. A cure could be many years off, but that doesn’t mean you have to deal with tinnitus alone or unaided. Finding 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.