You’re living with tinnitus and you’ve learned to adjust your life to it. You always keep the TV on to help you tune out the constant ringing. You refrain from going out for happy hour with coworkers because the loud music at the bar makes your tinnitus worse for days. You’re always going in to try new techniques and therapies. Ultimately, your tinnitus just becomes something you integrate into your daily life.
The main reason is that tinnitus can’t be cured. But they could be getting close. We may be getting close to an effective and permanent cure for tinnitus according to research published in PLOS biology. Until then, hearing aids can be really helpful.
Tinnitus Has a Murky Set of Causes
Tinnitus usually is experienced as a buzzing or ringing in the ear (though, tinnitus could manifest as other sounds too) that do not have an objective 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. Tinnitus is essentially caused by something else. It can be difficult to narrow down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one of the reasons why a cure is so elusive. Tinnitus symptoms can manifest due to numerous reasons.
Even the connection between tinnitus and hearing loss is murky. There’s a correlation, sure, but not all people who have tinnitus also have hearing loss (and vice versa).
A New Culprit: Inflammation
Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, conducted a study published in PLOS Biology. 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 showed that the regions of the brain responsible for listening and hearing consistently had considerable inflammation. As inflammation is the body’s reaction to damage, this finding does suggest that noise-related hearing loss might be creating some damage we don’t fully understand yet.
But this discovery of inflammation also brings about the possibility of a new type of treatment. Because we know (generally speaking) how to manage inflammation. The symptoms of tinnitus cleared up when the mice were given drugs that impeded inflammation. Or, at least, those symptoms weren’t observable anymore.
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 might easily be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine that, rather than investing in these various 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 several huge hurdles in the way:
- Not everyone’s tinnitus will be caused the same way; whether all or even most cases of tinnitus are related to some sort of inflammation is still hard to identify.
- First, these experiments were carried out on mice. And there’s a lot to do before this specific strategy is deemed safe and approved for people.
- Any new approach needs to be proven safe; it could take some time to determine particular side effects, complications, or problems linked to these specific inflammation-blocking medicines.
So it may be a while before we have a pill for tinnitus. But it’s no longer impossible. That’s significant 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 relentless buzzing or ringing in your ears today, the potential of a far-off pill might provide you with hope – but not necessarily relief. There are contemporary treatments for tinnitus that can provide genuine results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the root problem.
There are cognitive treatments that help you learn to ignore tinnitus sounds and others that use noise cancellation strategies. Hearing aids frequently provide relief for many people. A cure could be a number of years off, but that doesn’t mean you need to cope 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.