You learn to adjust to living with tinnitus. You always leave the television on to help you tune out the persistent ringing. 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. Eventually, your tinnitus just becomes something you integrate into your day-to-day life.
Mainly, that’s because there isn’t a cure for tinnitus. But that may be changing. A study published in PLOS Biology appears to offer hope that we may be getting closer to a permanent and effective cure for tinnitus. In the meantime, hearing aids can really help.
Tinnitus Has a Murky Set of Causes
Somebody who is coping with tinnitus will hear a ringing or buzzing (or other sounds) that don’t have an external source. Tinnitus is quite common and millions of individuals cope with it to some degree.
It’s also a symptom, broadly speaking, and not itself a cause. Tinnitus is essentially caused by something else. It can be difficult to narrow down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one reason why a cure is so elusive. Tinnitus symptoms can occur due to several reasons.
True, most people attribute tinnitus to hearing loss of some type, but even that relationship is murky. There’s a connection, sure, but not all people 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, led a study published in PLOS Biology. Dr. Bao performed experiments on mice that had tinnitus caused by noise-induced hearing loss. And what she and her colleagues found indicates a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
Scans and tests done on these mice revealed that the parts of the brain in control of listening and hearing consistently had considerable inflammation. As inflammation is the body’s response to damage, this finding does indicate that noise-related hearing loss could be causing some damage we don’t completely comprehend as yet.
But new forms of treatment are also made possible by this discovery of inflammation. Because inflammation is something we know how to address. When the mice were given drugs that impeded the observed inflammation response, the symptoms of tinnitus went away. Or it became impossible to detect any symptoms, at least.
So is There a Magic Pill That Cures Tinnitus?
This research does appear to suggest that, eventually, there might actually be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine if you could just take a pill in the morning and keep tinnitus at bay all day without needing to turn to all those coping mechanisms.
That’s definitely the goal, but there are numerous huge hurdles in the way:
- First, these experiments were done on mice. And there’s a long way to go before this specific approach is considered safe and approved for people.
- Not everybody’s tinnitus will have the same cause; it’s hard to know (at this time) whether all or even most tinnitus is related to inflammation of some sort.
- We need to make sure any new strategy is safe; these inflammation blocking medications will need to be tested over time to rule out side effects and any potential concerns.
So it might be a while before we have a pill for tinnitus. But it’s a genuine possibility in the future. If you have tinnitus now, that represents a significant increase in hope. And, obviously, this approach in treating tinnitus isn’t the only one presently being studied. The cure for tinnitus gets closer and closer with every breakthrough and every bit of new knowledge.
What Can You do Today?
If you have a relentless ringing or buzzing in your ears today, the promise of a far-off pill might provide you with hope – but not necessarily relief. There are contemporary treatments for tinnitus that can produce real results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the root problem.
There are cognitive therapies that help you learn to ignore tinnitus sounds and others that utilize noise cancellation strategies. Many people also get relief with hearing aids. A cure might be many years off, but that doesn’t mean you need to cope with tinnitus alone or unaided. Finding 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.