You learn to adjust to life with tinnitus. In order to tune out the persistent ringing, you always leave the TV on. You refrain from 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 new therapies and new treatments. Ultimately, your tinnitus just becomes something you integrate into your day-to-day life.
The main reason is that tinnitus can’t be cured. But they may be getting close. We might be getting close to an effective and permanent cure for tinnitus according to research published in PLOS biology. For now, hearing aids can really be helpful.
The Exact Causes of Tinnitus Are Not Clear
Somebody who is coping with tinnitus will hear a buzzing or ringing (or other noises) that don’t have an external source. Tinnitus is very common and millions of people deal 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 generally caused by something else. It can be difficult to narrow down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one reason why a cure is so elusive. Tinnitus symptoms can occur due to several reasons.
Even the relationship between tinnitus and hearing loss is unclear. There’s a connection, sure, but not all people who have tinnitus also have hearing loss (and vice versa).
A New Culprit: Inflammation
Research published in PLOS Biology outlined a study conducted by Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor of physiology at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tuscon. Dr. Bao carried out experiments on mice who had tinnitus triggered by noise-induced hearing loss. And the results of these experiments indicated a culprit of tinnitus: inflammation.
Tests and scans done on these mice revealed that the regions of the brain in control of listening and hearing typically had considerable inflammation. This indicates that some damage is taking place as a result of noise-induced hearing loss which we presently don’t understand because inflammation is the body’s response to damage.
But new forms of treatment are also made possible by this discovery of inflammation. Because inflammation is something we know how to manage. When the mice were given drugs that impeded the observed inflammation response, the symptoms of tinnitus went away. Or it became impossible to detect any symptoms, at least.
Does This Mean There’s a Pill For 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 pop a pill in the morning and keep tinnitus at bay all day without needing to turn to all those coping mechanisms.
We may get there if we can overcome a few hurdles:
- Any new approach needs to be proven safe; these inflammation blocking medications will have to be tested over time to rule out side effects and any potential complications.
- Mice were the subject of these experiments. Before this approach is considered safe for people, there’s still a substantial amount of work to do.
- The exact cause of tinnitus will differ from person to person; whether all or even most instances of tinnitus are linked to some sort of inflammation is still difficult to identify.
So it may be a while before there’s a pill for tinnitus. But it’s a genuine possibility in the future. If you have tinnitus now, that represents a considerable increase in hope. And, of course, this approach in managing tinnitus isn’t 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 optimistic that in the future there will be a cure for tinnitus. Even though we don’t have a cure for tinnitus, there are some modern treatments that can provide real benefits.
There are cognitive treatments that help you learn to ignore tinnitus sounds and others that employ noise cancellation techniques. Hearing aids frequently offer relief for many people. You don’t need to go it alone in spite of the fact that a cure is likely several years away. 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.