You’re living with tinnitus and you’ve learned to adapt your life to it. In order to tune out the persistent ringing, you always leave the TV on. You refrain from going out for happy hour with friends because the loud music at the bar makes your tinnitus worse for days. You make appointments routinely to try new therapies and new treatments. Ultimately, your tinnitus just becomes something you integrate into your daily life.
The main reason is that tinnitus has no cure. But that might be changing. A study published in PLOS Biology appears to give hope that we could be getting closer to a lasting and reliable cure for tinnitus. Until then, hearing aids can be really helpful.
The Specific Causes of Tinnitus Are Not Clear
Tinnitus typically manifests as a ringing or buzzing in the ear (though, tinnitus could present as other sounds too) that do not have an external cause. Tinnitus is very common and millions of people deal with it on some level.
Generally speaking, tinnitus is itself a symptom of an underlying problem and not a cause in and of itself. Basically, something causes tinnitus – there’s a root problem that produces tinnitus symptoms. It can be difficult to narrow down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one of the reasons why a cure is so elusive. Tinnitus symptoms can manifest due to numerous reasons.
True, most people attribute tinnitus to hearing loss of some kind, but even that relationship is murky. Some individuals who have tinnitus do have hearing loss but some don’t.
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 the results of these experiments pointed to a culprit of tinnitus: inflammation.
According to the scans and tests done on these mice, inflammation was observed around the areas of the brain responsible for hearing. This indicates that some injury is happening as a consequence of noise-related hearing loss which we currently don’t comprehend because inflammation is the body’s response to damage.
But new types of treatment are also made possible by this discovery of inflammation. Because we know (broadly speaking) how to manage inflammation. When the mice were given drugs that inhibited the observed inflammation reaction, the symptoms of tinnitus disappeared. Or it became impossible to detect any symptoms, at least.
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 might easily be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine that, rather than investing in these numerous coping mechanisms, you can simply take a pill in the morning and keep your tinnitus at bay.
That’s certainly the goal, but there are a number of large hurdles in the way:
- Any new approach needs to be proven safe; it may take some time to identify particular side effects, complications, or issues related to these particular inflammation-blocking medications.
- Not everybody’s tinnitus will be caused the same way; it’s difficult to know (at this point) whether all or even most tinnitus is related to inflammation of some kind.
- First, these experiments were carried out on mice. And there’s a long way to go before this specific strategy is deemed safe and approved for people.
So it might be a while before we have a pill for tinnitus. But it’s a real possibility in the future. If you have tinnitus today, that represents a substantial 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.
Is There Anything You Can Do?
If you have a persistent buzzing or ringing in your ears now, the potential of a far-off pill might provide you with hope – but not necessarily alleviation. There are modern treatments for tinnitus that can produce genuine results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the root issue.
Some strategies include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies created to help you ignore the sounds linked to your tinnitus. Hearing aids frequently provide relief for many individuals. A cure could be a number of years off, but that doesn’t mean you need to deal with tinnitus alone or unassisted. Finding a treatment that is effective can help you spend more time doing things you love, and less time thinking about that buzzing or ringing in your ears.