You’re living with tinnitus and you’ve learned to adjust your life to it. You always leave the TV on to help you tune out the persistent ringing. You avoid going out for happy hour with coworkers because the loud music at the bar makes your tinnitus worse for days. You’re always going in to try new techniques and therapies. After a while, you simply fold your tinnitus into your daily life.
The primary reason is that tinnitus can’t be cured. But that might be changing. 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
Somebody who is coping with tinnitus will hear a ringing or buzzing (or other noises) that don’t have an outside source. A disorder that impacts millions of people, 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. One of the reasons why a “cure” for tinnitus is elusive is that these underlying causes can be hard to narrow down. Tinnitus symptoms can manifest due to several reasons.
True, most individuals attribute tinnitus to hearing loss of some sort, but even that relationship is unclear. Some individuals who have tinnitus do have hearing loss but some don’t.
A New Culprit: Inflammation
Research published in PLOS Biology detailed a study conducted by Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor of physiology at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tuscon. Mice with noise-induced tinnitus were experimented on by Dr. Bao. And what she and her team found indicates a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
Tests and scans done on these mice showed that the areas of the brain in control of listening and hearing consistently had considerable inflammation. This indicates that some damage is happening as a consequence of noise-induced hearing loss which we presently don’t understand because inflammation is the body’s response to injury.
But new types of treatment are also made available by this discovery of inflammation. 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, at least, those symptoms were no longer observable.
Does This Mean There’s a Pill For Tinnitus?
If you take a long enough look, you can probably look at this research and see how, eventually, there might easily be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine that, instead of investing in these various coping mechanisms, you can just pop a pill in the morning and keep your tinnitus at bay.
We could get there if we can tackle a few hurdles:
- Any new approach needs to be demonstrated to be safe; it could take some time to identify specific side effects, complications, or problems linked to these specific inflammation-blocking medications.
- Mice were the subject of these experiments. Before this approach is considered safe for people, there’s still a significant amount of work to do.
- Not everyone’s tinnitus will have the same cause; whether all or even most cases of tinnitus are connected to some sort of inflammation is still hard to identify.
So it may be a while before we have a pill for tinnitus. But it’s no longer impossible. If you have tinnitus today, that represents a significant increase in hope. And several other tinnitus treatments are also being researched. 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 persistent ringing or buzzing in your ears now, 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 provide real results.
There are cognitive therapies that help you learn to ignore tinnitus noises and others that employ noise cancellation strategies. Many people also get relief with hearing aids. You don’t have to go it alone in spite of the fact that a cure is likely several years away. Obtaining a treatment that works can help you spend more time doing what you love, and less time focusing on that buzzing or ringing in your ears.