You learn to adapt to life with tinnitus. In order to tune out the constant ringing, you always keep the TV on. You avoid going out for happy hour with coworkers because the loud music at the bar makes your tinnitus worse for days. You make appointments regularly to try new therapies and new techniques. Eventually, your tinnitus just becomes something you fold into your daily life.
Mainly, that’s because there’s no cure for tinnitus. But that may be changing. A study published in PLOS Biology seems to offer hope that we could be getting closer to a lasting and reliable cure for tinnitus. Until then, hearing aids can be really helpful.
The Exact Causes of Tinnitus Are Unclear
Tinnitus usually is experienced as a ringing or buzzing in the ear (though, tinnitus could manifest as other sounds as well) that do not have an external cause. Tinnitus is really common and millions of individuals cope with it to some degree.
It’s also a symptom, generally speaking, and not a cause unto itself. Tinnitus is essentially caused by something else. It can be hard to narrow down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one reason why a cure is so evasive. Tinnitus symptoms can develop due to numerous reasons.
Even the link between tinnitus and hearing loss is murky. Some individuals who have tinnitus do have hearing loss but some don’t.
A New Culprit: Inflammation
Research published in PLOS Biology outlined a study conducted 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 colleagues found points to a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
Tests and scans done on these mice revealed that the regions of the brain responsible for listening and hearing typically had considerable inflammation. As inflammation is the body’s reaction to damage, this finding does indicate that noise-related hearing loss may be causing some damage we don’t fully understand yet.
But new forms of treatment are also made available by this knowledge of inflammation. Because inflammation is something we know how to address. The symptoms of tinnitus cleared up when the mice were given drugs that impeded inflammation. Or it became impossible to observe any symptoms, at least.
Does This Mean There’s a Pill For Tinnitus?
This research does appear to suggest that, eventually, there may actually be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine that, rather than investing in these numerous coping mechanisms, you can simply take a pill in the morning and keep your tinnitus at bay.
That’s definitely the goal, but there are numerous huge hurdles in the way:
- Not everybody’s tinnitus will be caused the same way; whether all or even most instances of tinnitus are related to some sort of inflammation is still hard to know.
- We need to make sure any new strategy is safe; these inflammation blocking medications will have to be tested over time to rule out side effects and any potential concerns.
- First, these experiments were done on mice. Before this approach is considered safe for people, there’s still a substantial amount of work to do.
So it might be a while before we have a pill for tinnitus. But it’s a genuine possibility in the future. That’s considerable hope for your tinnitus down the road. And numerous other tinnitus treatments are also 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?
If you have a chronic ringing or buzzing in your ears today, the potential of a far-off pill may give you hope – but not necessarily relief. There are contemporary treatments for tinnitus that can produce genuine results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the underlying problem.
Some methods include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies designed to help you ignore the sounds related to your tinnitus. Hearing aids frequently provide relief for many people. You don’t need to go it alone in spite of 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.