You learn to adapt to living with tinnitus. In order to drown out the continuous ringing, you always keep the TV on. You refrain from going out for happy hour with friends because the loud music at the bar makes your tinnitus worse for days. You’re always making appointments to try new techniques and therapies. Over time, you simply integrate your tinnitus into your daily life.
Mostly, that’s because there’s no cure for tinnitus. But they may be getting close. We might be getting close to a reliable and permanent cure for tinnitus according to research published in PLOS biology. Until that happens, hearing aids can be really helpful.
Tinnitus has a murky set of causes
Someone who is coping with tinnitus will hear a buzzing or ringing (or other noises) that don’t have an outside source. A condition that affects millions of individuals, tinnitus is incredibly common.
Generally speaking, tinnitus is itself a symptom of an underlying condition and not a cause in and of itself. In other words, something causes tinnitus – there’s an underlying issue that creates tinnitus symptoms. One reason why a “cure” for tinnitus is evasive is that these root causes can be difficult to narrow down. There are a number of reasons why tinnitus can develop.
Even the relationship 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).
Inflammation: A new culprit
Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, directed a study published in PLOS Biology. Mice who had noise-related tinnitus were experimented on by Dr. Bao. And what she and her team discovered indicates a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
Tests and scans done on these mice revealed that the areas of the brain responsible for listening and hearing consistently had significant inflammation. As inflammation is the body’s response to damage, this finding does indicate that noise-related hearing loss might be causing some damage we don’t fully comprehend as yet.
But new types of treatment are also made available by this discovery of inflammation. Because we know (broadly speaking) how to manage inflammation. When the mice were given drugs that impeded the observed inflammation response, the symptoms of tinnitus went away. Or, at least, those symptoms were no longer observable.
So is there a magic pill that cures tinnitus?
If you take a long enough look, you can most likely look at this research and see how, one day, there may 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 needing to resort to all those coping mechanisms.
We may get there if we can tackle a few hurdles:
- Any new approach needs to be proven safe; it could take some time to identify particular side effects, complications, or problems related to these specific inflammation-blocking medications.
- Mice were the focus of these experiments. And there’s a long way to go before this particular strategy is considered safe and approved for people.
- Not everyone’s tinnitus will be caused the same way; it’s difficult to identify (at this time) whether all or even most tinnitus is connected to inflammation of some kind.
So it might be a while before we have a pill for tinnitus. But it’s a real possibility in the future. That’s considerable hope for your tinnitus down the road. And, of course, this strategy in treating tinnitus isn’t the only one presently being studied. The cure for tinnitus gets closer and closer with every discovery and every bit of new knowledge.
Is there anything you can do?
If you have a chronic buzzing or ringing in your ears today, the promise of a far-off pill might give you hope – but not necessarily relief. Even though we don’t have a cure for tinnitus, there are some contemporary treatments that can produce real benefits.
There are cognitive therapies that help you learn to ignore tinnitus sounds and others that employ noise cancellation techniques. Hearing aids frequently provide relief for many people. A cure might be a number of years off, but that doesn’t mean you need to deal with tinnitus alone or unaided. 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.