You learn to adjust to life with tinnitus. You always keep the television on to help you tune out the continuous ringing. 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 out new therapies and new treatments. Ultimately, your tinnitus just becomes something you fold into your daily life.
Mainly, that’s because there isn’t a cure for tinnitus. But that could be changing. We may be getting close to a reliable and lasting cure for tinnitus according to research published in PLOS biology. 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 buzzing or ringing (or other noises) that don’t have an outside source. Tinnitus is really common and millions of people deal with it to some degree.
It’s also a symptom, broadly speaking, and not a cause unto itself. Tinnitus is generally caused by something else. It can be hard to pin down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one reason why a cure is so elusive. Tinnitus symptoms can develop due to several reasons.
Even the link between tinnitus and hearing loss is murky. Some individuals who have tinnitus do have hearing loss but some don’t.
Inflammation: a New Culprit
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-related tinnitus were experimented on by Dr. Bao. And what she and her team found points to a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
Scans and tests done on these mice revealed that the parts of the brain in control of listening and hearing persistently had significant inflammation. As inflammation is the body’s response to damage, this finding does indicate that noise-related hearing loss may be creating some damage we don’t fully understand yet.
But new kinds of treatment are also made available by this knowledge of inflammation. Because we know (broadly speaking) how to manage inflammation. When the mice were given drugs that inhibited the observed inflammation response, the symptoms of tinnitus disappeared. Or, at least, those symptoms were no longer observable.
So is There a Magic Pill That Cures Tinnitus?
This research does appear to suggest that, in the long run, there might actually be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine if you could just pop a pill in the morning and keep tinnitus at bay all day without having to resort to all those coping mechanisms.
We might get there if we can overcome a few hurdles:
- Any new approach needs to be demonstrated to be 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 conducted on mice. Before this strategy is considered safe for people, there’s still a significant amount of work to do.
- Not everyone’s tinnitus will have the same cause; it’s hard to know (at this point) whether all or even most tinnitus is connected to inflammation of some sort.
So it may be a while before there’s a pill for tinnitus. But it’s a real possibility in the future. If you have tinnitus today, that represents a significant increase in hope. And, obviously, this strategy in treating tinnitus isn’t the only one currently being researched. 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 give you hope – but not necessarily alleviation. Even though we don’t have a cure for tinnitus, there are some modern treatments that can produce real benefits.
There are cognitive treatments that help you learn to ignore tinnitus noises and others that utilize noise cancellation techniques. Many people also find relief with hearing aids. You don’t need to go it alone in spite of the fact that a cure is likely several years away. Finding a treatment that works can help you spend more time doing what you love, and less time focusing on that buzzing or ringing in your ears.