Woman with ringing in her ears.

You’re living with tinnitus and you’ve learned to adjust your life to it. In order to tune out the continuous ringing, you always leave the TV on. 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 treatments. Eventually, your tinnitus just becomes something you integrate into your daily life.

The main reason is that tinnitus has no cure. But they may be getting close. Research published in PLOS Biology appears to offer hope that we could be getting closer to a lasting and effective cure for tinnitus. Until that happens, hearing aids can be really helpful.

The Precise Causes of Tinnitus Are Not Clear

Tinnitus usually manifests as a buzzing or ringing in the ear (though, tinnitus could present as other sounds as well) that do not have an external cause. Tinnitus is really common and millions of individuals cope 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 essentially caused by something else. One reason why a “cure” for tinnitus is evasive is that these underlying causes can be difficult to narrow down. There are several reasons why tinnitus can manifest.

Even the relationship between tinnitus and hearing loss is unclear. Some individuals who have tinnitus do have hearing loss but some don’t.

Inflammation: a New Culprit

Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, conducted a study published in PLOS Biology. Mice with noise-related tinnitus were experimented on by Dr. Bao. And what she and her colleagues discovered points to a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.

According to the tests and scans performed on these mice, inflammation was observed in the areas of the brain responsible for listening. This indicates that some injury 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 new kinds of treatment are also made possible by this discovery of inflammation. Because inflammation is something we know how to address. 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.

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, one day, there might easily be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine if you could just pop a pill in the morning and keep tinnitus at bay all day without needing to resort to all those coping mechanisms.

That’s certainly the goal, but there are numerous huge hurdles in the way:

  • We need to be certain any new strategy is safe; these inflammation blocking medications will have to be tested over time to rule out side effects and any potential concerns.
  • First, these experiments were conducted on mice. Before this approach is considered safe for people, there’s still a substantial amount of work to do.
  • The exact cause of tinnitus will be distinct from one individual to another; whether all or even most instances of tinnitus are connected to some kind of inflammation is still difficult to identify.

So, a pill for tinnitus may be a long way off. But it’s a genuine possibility in the future. If you have tinnitus now, that represents a substantial increase in hope. And numerous other tinnitus treatments are also being studied. Every new development, every new bit of knowledge, brings that cure for tinnitus just a little bit closer.

What Can You do Today?

In the meantime, people with tinnitus should feel hopeful that in the future there will be a cure for tinnitus. There are contemporary 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 use noise cancellation techniques. Hearing aids often provide relief for many people. A cure may be many years off, but that doesn’t mean you have to cope with tinnitus by yourself 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 finding the right treatment.

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References

https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.3000307
https://uanews.arizona.edu/story/brain-inflammation-identified-potential-target-treat-tinnitus

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

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