You learn to adapt to life with tinnitus. In order to tune out the continuous ringing, you always leave the TV on. The loud music at happy hour makes your tinnitus a lot worse so you avoid going out with your friends. You’re always going in to try new techniques and therapies. After a while, you simply integrate your tinnitus into your everyday life.
The primary reason is that tinnitus can’t be cured. But they may be getting close. A study published in PLOS Biology appears to give hope that we could be getting closer to a permanent and effective cure for tinnitus. Until that happens, hearing aids can be really helpful.
The Precise Causes of Tinnitus Are Unclear
Someone who is coping with tinnitus will hear a buzzing or ringing (or other sounds) that don’t have an outside source. Tinnitus is very common and millions of people cope 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 a root problem that creates tinnitus symptoms. It can be difficult to pin down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one reason why a cure is so evasive. There are a number of reasons why tinnitus can develop.
True, most individuals attribute tinnitus to hearing loss of some kind, but even that relationship is murky. 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 directed by Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor of physiology at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tuscon. Dr. Bao performed experiments on mice that had tinnitus caused by noise-induced hearing loss. And the results of these experiments indicated a culprit of tinnitus: inflammation.
According to the scans and tests carried out on these mice, inflammation was seen around the areas of the brain responsible for hearing. As inflammation is the body’s response to damage, this finding does indicate that noise-related hearing loss might be creating some damage we don’t fully comprehend as yet.
But this knowledge of inflammation also results in the potential for a new type of treatment. Because inflammation is something we know how to address. The symptoms of tinnitus cleared up when the mice were given drugs that inhibited inflammation. Or, at least, those symptoms were no longer observable.
Does This Mean There’s a Pill For Tinnitus?
This research does seem to indicate that, eventually, 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 may get there if we can tackle a few hurdles:
- Any new approach needs to be demonstrated to be safe; these inflammation blocking medicines will have to be tested over time to rule out side effects and any potential concerns.
- The exact cause of tinnitus will differ from person to person; it’s difficult to identify (at this time) whether all or even most tinnitus is linked to inflammation of some kind.
- First, these experiments were done on mice. Before this strategy is considered safe for humans, there’s still a significant amount of work to do.
So, a pill for tinnitus might be a long way off. But it’s a real possibility in the future. If you have tinnitus today, that represents a substantial increase in hope. And, obviously, this strategy in managing tinnitus is not the only one presently being explored. Every new development, every new bit of knowledge, brings that cure for tinnitus just a little bit closer.
Is There Anything You Can Do?
In the meantime, individuals with tinnitus should feel hopeful that in the future there will be a cure for tinnitus. There are modern treatments for tinnitus that can produce genuine results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the root issue.
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 individuals. You don’t need to go it alone despite the fact that a cure is probably several years away. Finding a treatment that is effective can help you spend more time doing things you love, and less time focusing on that buzzing or ringing in your ears.