You learn to adapt to living with tinnitus. You always leave the TV on to help you tune out the persistent ringing. The loud music at happy hour makes your tinnitus a lot worse so you avoid going out with your coworkers. You make appointments routinely to try out new therapies and new techniques. Eventually, your tinnitus just becomes something you fold into your day-to-day life.
Mostly, that’s because there’s no cure for tinnitus. But that could be changing. A study published in PLOS Biology appears to offer hope that we may be getting closer to a lasting and effective cure for tinnitus. Until that happens, hearing aids can be really helpful.
The Exact Causes of Tinnitus Are Unclear
Tinnitus usually is experienced as a buzzing or ringing in the ear (though, tinnitus could manifest as other sounds as well) that do not have an objective cause. A disorder that affects millions of individuals, tinnitus is extremely common.
It’s also a symptom, broadly speaking, and not a cause unto itself. Tinnitus is essentially caused by something else. It can be difficult to pin down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one reason why a cure is so elusive. Tinnitus symptoms can occur due to numerous reasons.
True, most people attribute tinnitus to hearing loss of some sort, but even that relationship is unclear. 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. Mice with noise-induced tinnitus were experimented on by Dr. Bao. And what she and her team found indicates a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
Tests and scans done on these mice showed that the regions of the brain in control of listening and hearing persistently had significant inflammation. This indicates that some injury is occurring as a consequence of noise-induced hearing loss which we currently don’t comprehend because inflammation is the body’s response to damage.
But new types 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 reaction, the symptoms of tinnitus went away. Or, at least, those symptoms were no longer observable.
Does This Mean There’s a Pill For Tinnitus?
If you take a long enough view, you can most likely view this research and see how, one day, there may easily be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine that, instead of investing in these numerous coping mechanisms, you can just pop a pill in the morning and keep your tinnitus at bay.
We may get there if we can overcome a few hurdles:
- Any new approach needs to be proven safe; it might take some time to determine particular side effects, complications, or issues linked to these particular inflammation-blocking medications.
- 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.
- The precise cause of tinnitus will differ from person to person; it’s difficult to know (at this point) whether all or even most tinnitus is related to inflammation of some kind.
So it may be a while before we have a pill for tinnitus. But it’s a real possibility in the future. If you have tinnitus now, that represents a substantial increase in hope. And, obviously, this approach in managing tinnitus is not the only one presently 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?
In the meantime, people who suffered from 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 underlying issue.
Some approaches include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies created to help you ignore the sounds linked to your tinnitus. Hearing aids frequently offer relief for many people. A cure could be a number of years off, but that doesn’t mean you have to deal with tinnitus alone or unassisted. Spending less time thinking about the ringing in your ears and more time doing the things you love can happen for you by getting the right treatment.