You learn to adapt to living with tinnitus. In order to drown out the constant ringing, you always keep the TV on. The loud music at happy hour makes your tinnitus a lot worse so you avoid going out with your friends. You make appointments routinely to try out new therapies and new treatments. Over time, you simply fold your tinnitus into your daily life.
The main reason is that tinnitus can’t be cured. But that may be changing. A study published in PLOS Biology seems to give hope that we may be getting closer to a lasting and reliable cure for tinnitus. For now, hearing aids can really help.
The Exact Causes of Tinnitus Are Unclear
Tinnitus normally manifests as a buzzing or ringing in the ear (though, tinnitus could manifest as other sounds as well) that do not have an external cause. Tinnitus is very common and millions of people 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 an underlying problem that creates tinnitus symptoms. 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 manifest due to several reasons.
Even the link between tinnitus and hearing loss is murky. Some individuals who have tinnitus do have hearing loss but some don’t.
A New Culprit: Inflammation
Research published in PLOS Biology outlined a study directed by Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor of physiology at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tuscon. Dr. Bao performed experiments on mice who had tinnitus caused by noise-induced hearing loss. And what she and her team discovered indicates a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
According to the scans and tests carried out on these mice, inflammation was seen in the areas of the brain responsible for hearing. As inflammation is the body’s reaction to damage, this finding does suggest that noise-induced hearing loss might be causing some damage we don’t fully comprehend as yet.
But this knowledge of inflammation also results in the potential for a new form of treatment. Because we know (generally speaking) how to handle inflammation. When the mice were given drugs that inhibited the observed inflammation reaction, the symptoms of tinnitus went away. Or it became impossible to detect any symptoms, at least.
So is There a Magic Pill That Cures Tinnitus?
If you take a long enough look, you can probably view this research and see how, eventually, there could easily be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine that, rather than investing in these various coping mechanisms, you can just take a pill in the morning and keep your tinnitus at bay.
That’s certainly the goal, but there are a number of large hurdles in the way:
- Any new approach needs to be proven safe; it could take some time to identify specific side effects, complications, or issues connected to these specific inflammation-blocking medications.
- Not everyone’s tinnitus will be caused the same way; whether all or even most instances of tinnitus are connected to some sort of inflammation is still hard to identify.
- Mice were the subject of these experiments. Before this approach is considered safe for humans, there’s still a significant amount of work to do.
So it might be a while before we have a pill for tinnitus. But it’s not at all impossible. If you have tinnitus now, that represents a substantial increase in hope. And, obviously, this approach in managing tinnitus is not the only one currently being researched. The cure for tinnitus gets closer and closer with every breakthrough and every bit of new knowledge.
What Can You do Now?
For now, individuals with tinnitus should feel optimistic 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 issue.
Some methods include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies created to help you ignore the sounds linked to your tinnitus. Hearing aids often provide relief for many individuals. A cure could be many years off, but that doesn’t mean you have to cope with tinnitus alone 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 getting the right treatment.