You’re living with tinnitus and you’ve learned to adjust your life to it. In order to drown out the persistent ringing, you always leave the TV on. You avoid going out for happy hour with friends because the loud music at the bar makes your tinnitus worse for days. You’re always going in to try new techniques and treatments. Eventually, your tinnitus just becomes something you integrate into your day-to-day life.
The main reason is that tinnitus can’t be cured. 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. Until then, hearing aids can be really helpful.
Tinnitus Has a Murky Set of Causes
Someone who is coping with tinnitus will hear a ringing or buzzing (or other noises) that don’t have an external source. Tinnitus is really common and millions of individuals deal with it to some degree.
It’s also a symptom, broadly speaking, and not a cause unto itself. Basically, something causes tinnitus – there’s a root problem that creates tinnitus symptoms. It can be hard to pin down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one of the reasons why a cure is so elusive. There are numerous reasons why tinnitus can occur.
Even the connection between tinnitus and hearing loss is unclear. There’s a link, sure, but not all individuals who have tinnitus also have hearing loss (and vice versa).
A New Culprit: Inflammation
Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, directed a study published in PLOS Biology. Dr. Bao performed experiments on mice that had tinnitus triggered by noise-induced hearing loss. And what she and her colleagues found points to a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
Scans and tests done on these mice found that the regions of the brain responsible for listening and hearing consistently had considerable inflammation. As inflammation is the body’s reaction to damage, this finding does suggest that noise-induced hearing loss could be creating some damage we don’t really understand as of yet.
But this knowledge of inflammation also results in the potential for a new type of treatment. Because inflammation is something we know how to manage. The symptoms of tinnitus cleared up when the mice were given drugs that impeded inflammation. Or, at least, those symptoms weren’t observable anymore.
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 may easily be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine if you could just pop a pill in the morning and keep tinnitus at bay all day without having to turn to all those coping mechanisms.
We may get there if we can overcome a few hurdles:
- Not everybody’s tinnitus will have the same cause; it’s hard to know (at this stage) whether all or even most tinnitus is linked to inflammation of some sort.
- We need to be certain any new approach is safe; it could take some time to determine specific side effects, complications, or issues connected to these specific inflammation-blocking medicines.
- Mice were the subject of these experiments. And there’s a lot to do before this particular approach is deemed safe and approved for humans.
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, of course, this approach in managing tinnitus isn’t the only one presently being studied. Every new development, every new bit of knowledge, brings that cure for tinnitus just a little bit closer.
What Can You do Now?
For now, people who suffered from tinnitus should feel optimistic that in the future there will be a cure for tinnitus. There are modern treatments for tinnitus that can produce genuine results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the underlying issue.
There are cognitive therapies that help you learn to ignore tinnitus sounds and others that employ noise cancellation strategies. Many people also find relief with hearing aids. You don’t have to go it alone despite the fact that a cure is likely several years away. Finding a treatment that is effective can help you spend more time doing what you love, and less time thinking about that buzzing or ringing in your ears.