You learn to adapt to living with tinnitus. You always leave the TV on to help you tune out the persistent ringing. The loud music at happy hour makes your tinnitus a lot worse so you refrain from going out with your friends. You’re always making appointments to try new techniques and treatments. After a while, you simply fold your tinnitus into your everyday life.
Mostly, that’s because there’s no cure for tinnitus. But they may be getting close. A study published in PLOS Biology appears to give hope that we may be getting closer to a lasting and reliable cure for tinnitus. In the meantime, hearing aids can really be helpful.
Tinnitus Has a Cloudy Set of Causes
Somebody who is coping with tinnitus will hear a ringing or buzzing (or other sounds) that don’t have an outside source. A condition that affects millions of people, tinnitus is very common.
Generally speaking, tinnitus is itself a symptom of an underlying condition and not a cause in and of itself. Basically, something causes tinnitus – there’s a root issue that produces tinnitus symptoms. One reason why a “cure” for tinnitus is elusive is that these underlying causes can be difficult to narrow down. Tinnitus symptoms can develop due to a number of reasons.
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
Research published in PLOS Biology outlined a study led by Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor of physiology at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tuscon. Dr. Bao performed experiments on mice who had tinnitus triggered by noise-induced hearing loss. And what she and her team found indicates a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
Tests and scans carried out on these mice revealed that the regions of the brain in control of listening and hearing consistently had significant inflammation. As inflammation is the body’s reaction to damage, this finding does suggest that noise-related hearing loss could be creating some damage we don’t really understand as yet.
But this discovery of inflammation also brings about the potential for a new kind of treatment. Because inflammation is something we know how to deal with. 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.
So is There a Magic Pill That Cures Tinnitus?
If you take a long enough view, you can most likely look at this research and see how, eventually, there might 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.
We might get there if we can overcome a few hurdles:
- The precise cause of tinnitus will be distinct from person to person; whether all or even most instances of tinnitus are linked to some kind of inflammation is still hard to know.
- Any new approach needs to be proven safe; it may take some time to identify particular side effects, complications, or problems related to these particular inflammation-blocking medicines.
- First, these experiments were conducted on mice. And there’s a lot to do before this particular strategy is deemed safe and approved for people.
So, a pill for tinnitus may be a long way off. But it’s no longer impossible. If you have tinnitus now, that represents a significant increase in hope. And various other tinnitus treatments are also being studied. Every new discovery, every new bit of knowledge, brings that cure for tinnitus just a little bit closer.
Is There Anything You Can Do?
For now, individuals with tinnitus should feel hopeful that in the future there will be a cure for tinnitus. Although we don’t have a cure for tinnitus, there are some modern treatments that can produce real benefits.
There are cognitive therapies that help you learn to ignore tinnitus sounds and others that use noise cancellation strategies. Many individuals also find relief with hearing aids. You don’t need to go it alone in spite of the fact that a cure is probably several years away. Obtaining a treatment that is effective can help you spend more time doing things you love, and less time thinking about that buzzing or ringing in your ears.