You’re living with tinnitus and you’ve learned to adapt your life to it. You always keep 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 avoid going out with your coworkers. You make appointments regularly to try new therapies and new treatments. Ultimately, your tinnitus just becomes something you fold into your day-to-day life.
The primary reason is that tinnitus can’t be cured. But they could be getting close. We may be getting close to a reliable and permanent cure for tinnitus according to research published in PLOS biology. In the meantime, hearing aids can really be helpful.
The Specific Causes of Tinnitus Are Unclear
Tinnitus usually manifests as a buzzing or ringing in the ear (though, tinnitus could present as other sounds too) that do not have an objective cause. Tinnitus is quite common and millions of individuals deal with it on some level.
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. It can be difficult to pin down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one of the reasons why a cure is so evasive. There are several reasons why tinnitus can develop.
True, most people attribute tinnitus to hearing loss of some kind, but even that relationship is unclear. There’s a correlation, sure, but not all individuals who have tinnitus also have hearing loss (and vice versa).
A New Culprit: Inflammation
Research published in PLOS Biology detailed a study led by Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor of physiology at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tuscon. Dr. Bao carried out experiments on mice that had tinnitus caused by noise-induced hearing loss. And what she and her team discovered indicates a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
Tests and scans carried out on these mice showed that the regions of the brain responsible for listening and hearing persistently had significant inflammation. This indicates that some injury is taking place as a consequence of noise-related hearing loss which we presently don’t understand because inflammation is the body’s reaction to damage.
But this knowledge of inflammation also leads to the potential for a new type of treatment. Because we know (broadly speaking) how to handle inflammation. The symptoms of tinnitus cleared up when the mice were given drugs that impeded inflammation. Or it became impossible to detect any symptoms, at least.
So is There a Magic Pill That Cures Tinnitus?
If you take a long enough view, you can probably look at this research and see how, one day, there could 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 needing to turn to all those coping mechanisms.
That’s definitely the goal, but there are several huge hurdles in the way:
- Not everyone’s tinnitus will have the same cause; whether all or even most cases of tinnitus are connected to some kind of inflammation is still difficult to know.
- Any new approach needs to be proven safe; these inflammation blocking medicines will need to be tested over time to rule out side effects and any potential complications.
- 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 no longer impossible. That’s considerable hope for your tinnitus down the road. And, obviously, this strategy in managing tinnitus isn’t the only one currently being researched. Every new discovery, every new bit of knowledge, brings that cure for tinnitus just a little bit closer.
What Can You do Now?
In the meantime, people who suffered from tinnitus should feel optimistic 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 provide real benefits.
There are cognitive therapies that help you learn to ignore tinnitus sounds and others that use noise cancellation techniques. Hearing aids often offer relief for many individuals. A cure could be many years off, but that doesn’t mean you have to cope with tinnitus by yourself or unaided. Spending less time worrying about the ringing in your ears and more time doing the things you love can happen for you by getting the right treatment.