You’re living with tinnitus and you’ve learned to adjust your life to it. You always keep the TV on to help you tune out the continuous ringing. The loud music at happy hour makes your tinnitus a lot worse so you avoid going out with your friends. You’re always making appointments to try new techniques and therapies. After a while, you simply fold your tinnitus into your daily life.
The primary reason is that tinnitus can’t be cured. But that could be changing. Research published in PLOS Biology appears to offer hope that we may be getting closer to a lasting and effective cure for tinnitus. Until then, hearing aids can be really helpful.
Tinnitus Has a Murky Set of Causes
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 people deal with it to some degree.
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. One reason why a “cure” for tinnitus is evasive is that these root causes can be difficult to pin down. There are numerous reasons why tinnitus can develop.
Even the relationship between tinnitus and hearing loss is murky. There’s a correlation, sure, but not all people who have tinnitus also have hearing loss (and vice versa).
Inflammation: a New Culprit
Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, directed a study published in PLOS Biology. 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.
According to the scans and tests carried out on these mice, inflammation was observed around the areas of the brain responsible for hearing. This indicates that some damage is happening as a consequence of noise-induced hearing loss which we presently don’t comprehend because inflammation is the body’s response to injury.
But this discovery of inflammation also leads to the potential for a new kind of treatment. Because we know (generally speaking) how to deal with inflammation. The symptoms of tinnitus cleared up when the mice were given drugs that inhibited inflammation. Or it became impossible to detect any symptoms, at least.
So is There a Magic Pill That Cures Tinnitus?
This research does seem to suggest that, eventually, there might actually be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine that, instead of investing in these various coping mechanisms, you can just pop a pill in the morning and keep your tinnitus at bay.
That’s certainly the goal, but there are numerous huge hurdles in the way:
- Any new approach needs to be demonstrated to be safe; it may take some time to determine specific side effects, complications, or problems related to these particular inflammation-blocking medications.
- First, these experiments were carried out on mice. And there’s a lot to do before this particular approach is considered safe and approved for people.
- The exact cause of tinnitus will be distinct from person to person; it’s difficult to know (at this time) whether all or even most tinnitus is related to inflammation of some type.
So it may be a while before we have a pill for tinnitus. But it’s not at all impossible. That’s considerable hope for your tinnitus down the road. And several other tinnitus treatments are also being studied. The cure for tinnitus gets closer and closer with every breakthrough and every bit of new knowledge.
Is There Anything You Can Do?
For now, 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 provide real 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 use noise cancellation techniques. Hearing aids frequently offer relief for many individuals. A cure could be a number of years off, but that doesn’t mean you need to cope with tinnitus alone or unassisted. Finding a treatment that is effective can help you spend more time doing what you love, and less time thinking about that buzzing or ringing in your ears.