You learn to adjust to life with tinnitus. You always keep the TV on to help you tune out the constant ringing. The loud music at happy hour makes your tinnitus a lot worse so you refrain from going out with your friends. You’re always going in to try new techniques and therapies. Eventually, your tinnitus just becomes something you fold into your daily life.
The main reason is that tinnitus can’t be cured. But that might be changing. Research published in PLOS Biology seems to offer hope that we may be getting closer to a permanent and reliable cure for tinnitus. In the meantime, hearing aids can really be helpful.
The Precise Causes of Tinnitus Are Not Clear
Somebody who has tinnitus will hear a buzzing or ringing (or other noises) that don’t have an external source. Tinnitus is really 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 a root issue that creates tinnitus symptoms. One of the reasons why a “cure” for tinnitus is elusive is that these underlying causes can be hard to pin down. Tinnitus symptoms can occur due to numerous reasons.
Even the link between tinnitus and hearing loss is murky. Some people who have tinnitus do have hearing loss but some don’t.
A New Culprit: Inflammation
Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, led a study published in PLOS Biology. Mice who had noise-induced tinnitus were experimented on by Dr. Bao. And the results of these experiments indicated a culprit of tinnitus: inflammation.
According to the tests and scans done on these mice, inflammation was observed in the areas of the brain responsible for hearing. As inflammation is the body’s reaction to damage, this finding does suggest that noise-related hearing loss could be creating some damage we don’t fully understand yet.
But this discovery of inflammation also brings about the potential for a new form of treatment. Because inflammation is something we know how to deal with. The symptoms of tinnitus went away 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?
This research does seem to indicate that, in the long run, there might actually be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine if you could just take a pill in the morning and keep tinnitus at bay all day without having to resort to all those coping mechanisms.
That’s certainly the goal, but there are several large hurdles in the way:
- First, these experiments were carried out on mice. And there’s a long way to go before this specific approach is deemed safe and approved for humans.
- The exact cause of tinnitus will differ from one individual to another; it’s hard to identify (at this stage) whether all or even most tinnitus is connected to inflammation of some sort.
- We need to be certain any new approach is safe; it could take some time to determine particular side effects, complications, or issues connected to these specific inflammation-blocking medications.
So it might be a while before we have a pill for tinnitus. But it’s a real possibility in the future. If you have tinnitus today, that represents a considerable increase in hope. And, of course, this strategy in treating tinnitus is not the only one currently being studied. Every new breakthrough, every new bit of knowledge, brings that cure for tinnitus just a little bit closer.
Is There Anything You Can Do?
For now, 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 provide genuine results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the root problem.
Some strategies include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies created to help you ignore the sounds linked to your tinnitus. Many individuals also find relief with hearing aids. A cure might be a number of years off, but that doesn’t mean you need to deal with tinnitus by yourself 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 finding the right treatment.