You learn to adapt to living with tinnitus. You always leave the television on to help you tune out the persistent ringing. The loud music at happy hour makes your tinnitus a lot worse so you avoid going out with your friends. You’re always making appointments to try new techniques and treatments. 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 that could be changing. A study published in PLOS Biology appears to offer hope that we could be getting closer to a permanent and effective cure for tinnitus. Until then, hearing aids can be really helpful.
Tinnitus Has a Murky Set of Causes
Somebody who is coping with tinnitus will hear a buzzing or ringing (or other sounds) that don’t have an outside source. Tinnitus is really common and millions of individuals deal with it to some degree.
It’s also a symptom, broadly speaking, and not a cause unto itself. Tinnitus is generally caused by something else. It can be difficult to narrow down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one of the reasons why a cure is so elusive. There are a number of reasons why tinnitus can manifest.
True, most people attribute tinnitus to hearing loss of some type, but even that relationship is murky. There’s a correlation, sure, but not all people who have tinnitus also have hearing loss (and vice versa).
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 who had noise-induced tinnitus were experimented on by Dr. Bao. And what she and her team found indicates a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
Scans and tests carried out on these mice showed that the areas of the brain in control of listening and hearing consistently had considerable inflammation. As inflammation is the body’s reaction to damage, this finding does indicate that noise-related hearing loss could be causing some damage we don’t completely understand as yet.
But this knowledge of inflammation also results in the possibility of a new form of treatment. Because we know (generally speaking) how to manage inflammation. When the mice were given drugs that inhibited the observed inflammation response, the symptoms of tinnitus went away. Or, at least, those symptoms were no longer observable.
Does This Mean There’s a Pill For Tinnitus?
If you take a long enough view, you can probably view this research and see how, eventually, there may easily 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 might get there if we can overcome a few hurdles:
- First, these experiments were done on mice. Before this strategy is considered safe for humans, there’s still a significant amount of work to do.
- Any new approach needs to be demonstrated to be safe; these inflammation blocking medications will need to be tested over time to rule out side effects and any potential complications.
- The precise cause of tinnitus will be distinct from person to person; whether all or even most cases of tinnitus are linked to some sort of inflammation is still hard to know.
So, a pill for tinnitus might be a long way off. But it’s a real possibility in the future. If you have tinnitus now, that represents a significant increase in hope. And, of course, this approach in treating tinnitus isn’t the only one currently being explored. The cure for tinnitus gets closer and closer with every discovery and every bit of new knowledge.
What Can You do Now?
For now, people with tinnitus should feel optimistic that in the future there will be a cure for tinnitus. There are contemporary treatments for tinnitus that can provide real results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the underlying problem.
Some methods include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies designed to help you ignore the sounds related to your tinnitus. Many people also find relief with hearing aids. You don’t need to go it alone in spite of the fact that a cure is likely several years away. Obtaining a treatment that is effective can help you spend more time doing things you love, and less time focusing on that buzzing or ringing in your ears.