You learn to adapt to living with tinnitus. In order to drown out the constant ringing, you always leave 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 make appointments regularly to try out new therapies and new techniques. Over time, you simply fold your tinnitus into your everyday life.
The primary reason is that tinnitus has no cure. But they could be getting close. Research published in PLOS Biology appears to offer hope that we may be getting closer to a lasting and reliable cure for tinnitus. For now, hearing aids can really help.
Tinnitus Has a Murky Set of Causes
Tinnitus usually manifests as a ringing or buzzing in the ear (though, tinnitus could manifest as other sounds too) that do not have an objective cause. A disorder that impacts millions of people, tinnitus is incredibly common.
It’s also a symptom, generally speaking, and not itself a cause. Tinnitus is generally caused by something else. One of the reasons why a “cure” for tinnitus is evasive is that these root causes can be hard to pin down. There are several reasons why tinnitus can occur.
True, most people attribute tinnitus to hearing loss of some sort, but even that relationship is murky. Some people who have tinnitus do have hearing loss but some don’t.
Inflammation: a New Culprit
Research published in PLOS Biology detailed a study led by Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor of physiology at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tuscon. Mice who had noise-induced tinnitus were experimented on by Dr. Bao. And what she and her team discovered indicates a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
According to the scans and tests performed on these mice, inflammation was seen in the areas of the brain responsible for listening. As inflammation is the body’s reaction to damage, this finding does indicate that noise-related hearing loss may be causing some damage we don’t completely understand as yet.
But this knowledge of inflammation also brings about 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 observe any symptoms, at least.
Does This Mean There’s a Pill For Tinnitus?
If you take a long enough view, you can most likely view this research and see how, one day, there could easily be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine that, instead of investing in these various 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 a number of big hurdles in the way:
- Mice were the subject of these experiments. And there’s a long way to go before this particular approach is deemed safe and approved for humans.
- Not everybody’s tinnitus will have the same cause; it’s difficult to identify (at this stage) whether all or even most tinnitus is linked to inflammation of some type.
- We need to be certain any new approach is safe; these inflammation blocking medications will have to be tested over time to rule out side effects and any potential complications.
So, a pill for tinnitus might be a long way off. But it’s not at all impossible. If you have tinnitus today, that represents a substantial increase in hope. And various other tinnitus treatments are also being studied. The cure for tinnitus gets closer and closer with every development and every bit of new knowledge.
Is There Anything You Can Do?
In the meantime, people with tinnitus should feel hopeful that in the future there will be a cure for tinnitus. There are modern treatments for tinnitus that can provide real results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the root problem.
Some strategies include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies designed to help you ignore the sounds related to your tinnitus. Hearing aids often offer relief for many people. You don’t have to go it alone in spite of the fact that a cure is probably several years away. 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.