You learn to adapt to living with tinnitus. You always keep the TV on to help you tune out the continuous ringing. The loud music at happy hour makes your tinnitus much worse so you avoid going out with your coworkers. You make appointments routinely to try out new therapies and new treatments. Ultimately, your tinnitus just becomes something you integrate into your daily life.
The primary reason is that tinnitus can’t be cured. But that might 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 help.
The Exact Causes of Tinnitus Are Not Clear
Tinnitus typically is experienced as a ringing or buzzing in the ear (though, tinnitus could present as other sounds too) that do not have an external cause. A disorder that impacts millions of people, tinnitus is extremely common.
It’s also a symptom, broadly speaking, and not a cause unto itself. In other words, something causes tinnitus – there’s an underlying problem that causes tinnitus symptoms. It can be hard to pin down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one reason why a cure is so elusive. There are a number of reasons why tinnitus can develop.
Even the relationship between tinnitus and hearing loss is not well understood. There’s a link, sure, but not all individuals who have tinnitus also have hearing loss (and vice versa).
Inflammation: a New Culprit
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. Mice with noise-induced tinnitus were experimented on by Dr. Bao. And what she and her colleagues found points to a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
Scans and tests done on these mice showed that the regions of the brain in control of listening and hearing persistently had considerable inflammation. This indicates that some damage is taking place as a result of noise-related hearing loss which we currently don’t comprehend because inflammation is the body’s response to damage.
But this knowledge of inflammation also leads to the potential for a new type of treatment. Because inflammation is something we know how to address. The symptoms of tinnitus went away when the mice were given drugs that impeded inflammation. Or, at least, those symptoms were no longer observable.
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 needing to turn to all those coping mechanisms.
We might get there if we can tackle a few hurdles:
- First, these experiments were done on mice. Before this approach is considered safe for humans, there’s still a significant amount of work to do.
- We need to make sure any new approach is safe; these inflammation blocking medications will need to be tested over time to rule out side effects and any potential concerns.
- The precise cause of tinnitus will be distinct from one individual to another; whether all or even most cases of tinnitus are related to some sort of inflammation is still hard to identify.
So, a pill for tinnitus might be a long way off. But it’s a real possibility in the future. If you have tinnitus now, that represents a considerable increase in hope. And, obviously, this strategy in managing tinnitus isn’t the only one currently being researched. The cure for tinnitus gets closer and closer with every development and every bit of new knowledge.
Is There Anything You Can Do?
If you have a relentless buzzing or ringing in your ears now, the potential of a far-off pill may provide you with hope – but not necessarily relief. There are modern treatments for tinnitus that can provide genuine results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the underlying problem.
There are cognitive treatments that help you learn to ignore tinnitus sounds and others that utilize noise cancellation strategies. Hearing aids often provide relief for many individuals. A cure could be a number of years off, but that doesn’t mean you need to cope with tinnitus by yourself or unassisted. Spending less time worrying about the ringing in your ears and more time doing the things you love can happen for you by getting the right treatment.