You’re living with tinnitus and you’ve learned to adapt your life to it. In order to drown out the constant ringing, you always keep the TV on. 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 everyday life.
The main reason is that tinnitus can’t be cured. But that may be changing. Research published in PLOS Biology seems to offer hope that we could be getting closer to a lasting and reliable cure for tinnitus. Until then, hearing aids can be really helpful.
The Exact Causes of Tinnitus Are Unclear
Tinnitus normally is experienced as a ringing or buzzing in the ear (though, tinnitus could manifest as other sounds too) that do not have an objective cause. A disorder that affects millions of people, tinnitus is very common.
Generally speaking, tinnitus is itself a symptom of an underlying condition 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 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 sort, but even that relationship is unclear. There’s a correlation, sure, but not all individuals who have tinnitus also have hearing loss (and vice versa).
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 colleagues discovered points to a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
Scans and tests 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 suggest that noise-induced hearing loss could be causing some damage we don’t really comprehend as yet.
But new forms of treatment are also made available by this discovery of inflammation. Because we know (broadly speaking) how to deal with inflammation. When the mice were given drugs that impeded the observed inflammation reaction, the symptoms of tinnitus disappeared. Or, at least, those symptoms weren’t observable anymore.
So is There a Magic Pill That Cures Tinnitus?
If you take a long enough look, you can most likely look at this research and see how, eventually, there could easily be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine that, rather than investing in these numerous coping mechanisms, you can just pop a pill in the morning and keep your tinnitus at bay.
That’s definitely the goal, but there are several large hurdles in the way:
- Any new approach needs to be demonstrated to be safe; these inflammation blocking medicines will have to be tested over time to rule out side effects and any potential complications.
- The precise cause of tinnitus will differ from person to person; whether all or even most instances of tinnitus are linked to some kind of inflammation is still difficult to know.
- Mice were the focus of these experiments. Before this approach is considered safe for people, there’s still a substantial amount of work to do.
So, a pill for tinnitus may be a long way off. But it’s not at all impossible. That’s significant hope for your tinnitus down the road. And numerous other tinnitus treatments are also being studied. The cure for tinnitus gets closer and closer with every discovery and every bit of new knowledge.
Is There Anything You Can Do?
For now, people with tinnitus should feel optimistic that in the future there will be a cure for tinnitus. Although we don’t have a cure for tinnitus, there are some modern treatments that can produce real benefits.
Some approaches include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies designed to help you ignore the sounds linked to your tinnitus. Many people also find relief with hearing aids. A cure could be a number of years off, but that doesn’t mean you need to cope with tinnitus alone or unassisted. 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.