You’re living with tinnitus and you’ve learned to adjust your life to it. In order to tune out the persistent ringing, you always keep the TV on. The loud music at happy hour makes your tinnitus much worse so you avoid going out with your coworkers. You make appointments regularly to try out new therapies and new techniques. Eventually, your tinnitus just becomes something you integrate into your day-to-day life.
The main reason is that tinnitus has no cure. But they may be getting close. A study published in PLOS Biology seems to offer hope that we may be getting closer to a permanent and reliable cure for tinnitus. Until that happens, hearing aids can be really helpful.
The Precise Causes of Tinnitus Are Unclear
Someone who is coping with tinnitus will hear a buzzing or ringing (or other sounds) that don’t have an external source. Tinnitus is quite common and millions of people deal with it to some degree.
Generally speaking, tinnitus is itself a symptom of an underlying problem and not a cause in and of itself. In other words, something causes tinnitus – there’s a root problem that creates tinnitus symptoms. One reason why a “cure” for tinnitus is evasive is that these underlying causes can be difficult to pin down. Tinnitus symptoms can manifest due to several reasons.
Even the connection between tinnitus and hearing loss is not well understood. Some people 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. Mice who had noise-induced tinnitus were experimented on by Dr. Bao. And what she and her team found points to a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
According to the scans and tests carried out on these mice, inflammation was seen around the areas of the brain responsible for hearing. As inflammation is the body’s response to damage, this finding does suggest that noise-related hearing loss might be creating some damage we don’t completely understand yet.
But this knowledge of inflammation also brings about the possibility of a new type of treatment. Because inflammation is something we know how to deal with. 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 view, you can probably look at this research and see how, eventually, there might 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.
That’s definitely the goal, but there are numerous huge hurdles in the way:
- We need to be certain any new approach is safe; it might take some time to identify specific side effects, complications, or problems related to these specific inflammation-blocking medicines.
- First, these experiments were done on mice. And there’s a lot to do before this particular approach is considered safe and approved for humans.
- The precise cause of tinnitus will differ from one individual to another; whether all or even most cases of tinnitus are related to some kind of inflammation is still difficult to know.
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 now, that represents a considerable increase in hope. And, of course, this approach in treating tinnitus is not the only one currently being explored. Every new breakthrough, every new bit of knowledge, brings that cure for tinnitus just a little bit closer.
What Can You do Today?
In the meantime, people with tinnitus should feel optimistic that in the future there will be a cure for tinnitus. Although we don’t have a cure for tinnitus, there are some modern treatments that can produce real benefits.
Some methods include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies designed to help you ignore the sounds linked to your tinnitus. Hearing aids often offer relief for many individuals. A cure could be many years off, but that doesn’t mean you have to deal with tinnitus by yourself or unassisted. 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.