You learn to adjust to living with tinnitus. You always keep the TV 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 daily life.
The primary reason is that tinnitus can’t be cured. But that could be changing. Research published in PLOS Biology appears to give hope that we could be getting closer to a permanent and effective cure for tinnitus. Until that happens, hearing aids can be really helpful.
The Specific Causes of Tinnitus Are Unclear
Tinnitus typically manifests as a buzzing or ringing in the ear (though, tinnitus could present as other sounds too) that do not have an objective cause. Tinnitus is very common and millions of individuals deal 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 essentially caused by something else. It can be difficult to pin down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one reason why a cure is so elusive. Tinnitus symptoms can manifest due to numerous reasons.
True, most individuals attribute tinnitus to hearing loss of some kind, but even that relationship is unclear. 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 outlined a study directed 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 caused by noise-induced hearing loss. And the results of these experiments pointed to a culprit of tinnitus: inflammation.
Tests and scans done on these mice found that the areas of the brain in control of listening and hearing consistently had significant inflammation. As inflammation is the body’s reaction to damage, this finding does suggest that noise-related hearing loss may be causing some damage we don’t completely comprehend as of yet.
But this discovery of inflammation also leads to the potential for a new form of treatment. Because inflammation is something we know how to address. When the mice were given drugs that inhibited the observed inflammation reaction, the symptoms of tinnitus disappeared. Or it became impossible to observe any symptoms, at least.
Does This Mean There’s a Pill For Tinnitus?
If you take a long enough view, you can probably 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 a number of large hurdles in the way:
- Not everybody’s tinnitus will be caused the same way; whether all or even most instances of tinnitus are linked to some kind of inflammation is still difficult to identify.
- Any new approach needs to be proven safe; it could take some time to identify specific side effects, complications, or issues connected to these specific inflammation-blocking medicines.
- Mice were the subject of these experiments. Before this strategy is considered safe for people, there’s still a substantial amount of work to do.
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 considerable increase in hope. And, of course, this strategy in treating tinnitus is not the only one presently being researched. The cure for tinnitus gets closer and closer with every development and every bit of new knowledge.
Is There Anything You Can Do?
For now, individuals who suffered from tinnitus should feel hopeful that in the future there will be a cure for tinnitus. There are modern treatments for tinnitus that can produce genuine results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the underlying issue.
There are cognitive treatments that help you learn to ignore tinnitus sounds and others that utilize noise cancellation techniques. Hearing aids often offer relief for many individuals. A cure could be a number of years off, but that doesn’t mean you have to deal with tinnitus alone or unaided. Finding a treatment that works can help you spend more time doing what you love, and less time thinking about that buzzing or ringing in your ears.