You learn to adapt to living with tinnitus. In order to drown out the persistent ringing, you always keep the TV on. The loud music at happy hour makes your tinnitus a lot worse so you avoid going out with your friends. You’re always going in to try new techniques and therapies. Ultimately, your tinnitus just becomes something you integrate into your day-to-day life.
The main reason is that tinnitus has no cure. But that may be changing. A study published in PLOS Biology appears to offer hope that we may be getting closer to a lasting and effective cure for tinnitus. Until that happens, hearing aids can be really helpful.
Tinnitus Has a Cloudy Set of Causes
Tinnitus typically is experienced 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 really common and millions of people cope with it on some level.
It’s also a symptom, broadly speaking, and not a cause unto itself. In other words, something causes tinnitus – there’s a root issue that produces tinnitus symptoms. One of the reasons why a “cure” for tinnitus is elusive is that these root causes can be hard to narrow down. There are a number of reasons why tinnitus can occur.
True, most individuals attribute tinnitus to hearing loss of some kind, but even that relationship is unclear. There’s a correlation, sure, but not all individuals who have tinnitus also have hearing loss (and vice versa).
A New Culprit: Inflammation
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 found indicates a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
According to the tests and scans done on these mice, inflammation was seen around the areas of the brain responsible for listening. As inflammation is the body’s response to damage, this finding does suggest that noise-induced hearing loss may be causing some damage we don’t completely comprehend yet.
But this discovery of inflammation also leads to the potential for a new type of treatment. Because we know (generally speaking) how to handle inflammation. The symptoms of tinnitus went away when the mice were given drugs that impeded inflammation. Or, at least, those symptoms were no longer observable.
So is There a Magic Pill That Cures Tinnitus?
This research does appear to indicate that, eventually, there might actually be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine if you could just pop a pill in the morning and keep tinnitus at bay all day without needing to resort to all those coping mechanisms.
That’s certainly the goal, but there are a number of huge hurdles in the way:
- The precise cause of tinnitus will be distinct from person to person; whether all or even most instances of tinnitus are connected to some kind of inflammation is still hard to identify.
- First, these experiments were conducted on mice. Before this approach is considered safe for humans, there’s still a substantial amount of work to do.
- Any new approach needs to be demonstrated to be safe; it may take some time to identify specific side effects, complications, or issues related to these specific inflammation-blocking medications.
So it may be a while before we have a pill for tinnitus. But it’s a real possibility in the future. That’s significant hope for your tinnitus down the road. And numerous other tinnitus treatments are also being studied. Every new breakthrough, every new bit of knowledge, brings that cure for tinnitus just a little bit closer.
What Can You do Now?
For now, individuals 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 contemporary treatments that can produce real benefits.
Some methods 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 need to go it alone despite the fact that a cure is probably several years away. Spending less time thinking about the ringing in your ears and more time doing the things you love can happen for you by getting the right treatment.