You learn to adjust to living with tinnitus. In order to drown out the constant ringing, you always keep the TV on. The loud music at happy hour makes your tinnitus a lot worse so you refrain from going out with your coworkers. You’re always going in to try new techniques and treatments. After a while, you simply fold your tinnitus into your everyday life.
Mostly, that’s because there’s no cure for tinnitus. But that might be changing. We may be getting close to an effective and permanent cure for tinnitus according to research published in PLOS biology. Until then, hearing aids can be really helpful.
Tinnitus Has a Cloudy Set of Causes
Tinnitus typically is experienced as a buzzing or ringing in the ear (though, tinnitus could manifest as other sounds as well) that do not have an external cause. A condition that affects millions of individuals, tinnitus is very common.
It’s also a symptom, broadly speaking, and not a cause unto itself. In other words, something causes tinnitus – there’s an underlying issue that creates tinnitus symptoms. One of the reasons why a “cure” for tinnitus is elusive is that these underlying causes can be hard to pin down. Tinnitus symptoms can develop due to numerous reasons.
True, most individuals attribute tinnitus to hearing loss of some sort, but even that relationship is murky. There’s a correlation, sure, but not all individuals who have tinnitus also have hearing loss (and vice versa).
Inflammation: a New Culprit
Research published in PLOS Biology outlined a study conducted by Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor of physiology at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tuscon. Mice with noise-related tinnitus were experimented on by Dr. Bao. And what she and her team found points to a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
Scans and tests carried out on these mice showed that the parts of the brain responsible for listening and hearing persistently had considerable inflammation. This reveals that some damage is taking place as a result of noise-induced hearing loss which we presently don’t comprehend because inflammation is the body’s response to damage.
But this knowledge of inflammation also results in the potential for a new type of treatment. Because inflammation is something we know how to address. The symptoms of tinnitus cleared up when the mice were given drugs that inhibited inflammation. 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 probably view this research and see how, one day, there might easily be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine that, rather than investing in these numerous coping mechanisms, you can simply pop a pill in the morning and keep your tinnitus at bay.
That’s definitely the goal, but there are numerous huge 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 concerns.
- First, these experiments were conducted on mice. Before this approach is considered safe for people, there’s still a significant amount of work to do.
- The exact cause of tinnitus will differ from person to person; it’s hard to know (at this time) whether all or even most tinnitus is connected to inflammation of some kind.
So, a pill for tinnitus might be a long way off. But it’s a genuine possibility in the future. That’s considerable hope for your tinnitus down the road. And, obviously, this approach in managing tinnitus is not the only one currently being explored. 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 promise of a far-off pill might provide you with hope – but not necessarily relief. There are modern treatments for tinnitus that can provide real results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the underlying problem.
There are cognitive therapies that help you learn to ignore tinnitus sounds and others that use noise cancellation strategies. Many people also find relief with hearing aids. A cure could be a number of years off, but that doesn’t mean you have to cope with tinnitus alone or unaided. Spending less time worrying about the ringing in your ears and more time doing the things you love can happen for you by getting the right treatment.