You learn to adapt to life with tinnitus. You always keep the TV on to help you tune out the persistent ringing. 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 routinely to try out new therapies and new techniques. Over time, you simply integrate your tinnitus into your daily life.
The primary reason is that tinnitus has no cure. 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. Until that happens, hearing aids can be really helpful.
The Specific Causes of Tinnitus Are Unclear
Tinnitus typically manifests as a buzzing or ringing in the ear (though, tinnitus could manifest as other sounds too) that do not have an objective cause. A disorder that impacts millions of individuals, tinnitus is very common.
Generally speaking, tinnitus is itself a symptom of an underlying condition and not a cause in and of itself. Tinnitus is essentially caused by something else. One reason why a “cure” for tinnitus is evasive is that these root causes can be hard to pin down. There are a number of reasons why tinnitus can develop.
True, most people attribute tinnitus to hearing loss of some type, but even that relationship is murky. Some people 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. Mice who had noise-related tinnitus were experimented on by Dr. Bao. And what she and her team found points to a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
According to the scans and tests done on these mice, inflammation was seen around the areas of the brain responsible for hearing. As inflammation is the body’s response to damage, this finding does suggest that noise-related hearing loss could be causing some damage we don’t really understand as of yet.
But this discovery of inflammation also brings about the potential for a new form of treatment. Because we know (broadly speaking) how to manage inflammation. The symptoms of tinnitus went away when the mice were given drugs that inhibited inflammation. Or it became impossible to observe any symptoms, at least.
Does This Mean There’s a Pill For Tinnitus?
If you take a long enough look, you can probably look at 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 pop a pill in the morning and keep your tinnitus at bay.
We could get there if we can tackle a few hurdles:
- Not everybody’s tinnitus will be caused the same way; it’s difficult to know (at this stage) whether all or even most tinnitus is related to inflammation of some kind.
- Any new approach needs to be proven safe; it could take some time to identify particular side effects, complications, or issues linked to these specific inflammation-blocking medications.
- First, these experiments were conducted on mice. Before this approach is considered safe for people, there’s still a significant amount of work to do.
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 considerable increase in hope. And several other tinnitus treatments are also being studied. Every new discovery, every new bit of knowledge, brings that cure for tinnitus just a little bit closer.
What Can You do Now?
For now, people who suffered from tinnitus should feel hopeful that in the future there will be a cure for tinnitus. There are contemporary treatments for tinnitus that can provide real results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the root problem.
There are cognitive therapies that help you learn to ignore tinnitus noises and others that utilize noise cancellation techniques. Many individuals also get relief with hearing aids. You don’t have to go it alone despite the fact that a cure is probably several years away. 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.