You learn to adapt to life with tinnitus. In order to tune out the constant ringing, you always leave the TV on. You refrain from going out for happy hour with coworkers because the loud music at the bar makes your tinnitus worse for days. You make appointments routinely to try new therapies and new treatments. Over time, you simply fold your tinnitus into your everyday life.
The primary reason is that tinnitus can’t be cured. But they may be getting close. A study published in PLOS Biology seems to offer hope that we could be getting closer to a lasting and effective cure for tinnitus. In the meantime, hearing aids can really be helpful.
The Specific Causes of Tinnitus Are Unclear
Tinnitus typically is experienced as a buzzing or ringing in the ear (though, tinnitus could manifest as other sounds too) that do not have an external cause. Tinnitus is very common and millions of people cope with it on some level.
Generally speaking, tinnitus is itself a symptom of an underlying problem and not a cause in and of itself. Basically, something causes tinnitus – there’s a root issue that causes tinnitus symptoms. One reason why a “cure” for tinnitus is evasive is that these underlying causes can be hard to narrow down. Tinnitus symptoms can occur due to numerous reasons.
Even the link between tinnitus and hearing loss is not well understood. Some people who have tinnitus do have hearing loss but some don’t.
A New Culprit: Inflammation
Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, led a study published in PLOS Biology. Mice with noise-induced tinnitus were experimented on by Dr. Bao. And the results of these experiments indicated a culprit of tinnitus: inflammation.
According to the tests and scans carried out on these mice, inflammation was discovered in the areas of the brain responsible for hearing. As inflammation is the body’s reaction to damage, this finding does suggest that noise-induced hearing loss could be causing some damage we don’t completely understand yet.
But this discovery of inflammation also results in the possibility of a new kind of treatment. Because we know (broadly speaking) how to manage inflammation. When the mice were given drugs that inhibited the observed inflammation reaction, the symptoms of tinnitus disappeared. Or, at least, those symptoms were no longer observable.
Does This Mean There’s a Pill For Tinnitus?
If you take a long enough view, you can most likely look at this research and see how, one day, there may easily be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine that, instead of investing in these numerous coping mechanisms, you can just take a pill in the morning and keep your tinnitus at bay.
We could get there if we can tackle a few hurdles:
- First, these experiments were carried out on mice. Before this strategy is considered safe for humans, there’s still a substantial amount of work to do.
- Not everybody’s tinnitus will be caused the same way; whether all or even most instances of tinnitus are connected to some sort of inflammation is still hard to identify.
- Any new approach needs to be proven safe; it may take some time to identify particular side effects, complications, or problems connected to these particular inflammation-blocking medications.
So it might be a while before we have a pill for tinnitus. But it’s not at all impossible. That’s significant hope for your tinnitus down the road. And various other tinnitus treatments are also being studied. The cure for tinnitus gets closer and closer with every breakthrough and every bit of new knowledge.
What Can You do Now?
If you have a relentless ringing or buzzing in your ears today, the promise of a far-off pill might give you hope – but not necessarily relief. There are contemporary treatments for tinnitus that can produce real results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the underlying issue.
There are cognitive treatments that help you learn to ignore tinnitus sounds and others that utilize noise cancellation techniques. Hearing aids often provide relief for many individuals. A cure could be many years off, but that doesn’t mean you need to cope with tinnitus alone or unaided. Obtaining a treatment that is effective can help you spend more time doing what you love, and less time focusing on that buzzing or ringing in your ears.