Woman with ringing in her ears.

You’re living with tinnitus and you’ve learned to adapt your life to it. You always leave the TV on to help you tune out the continuous ringing. You avoid going out for happy hour with coworkers because the loud music at the bar makes your tinnitus worse for days. You make appointments regularly to try new therapies and new treatments. Eventually, your tinnitus just becomes something you integrate into your day-to-day life.

The primary reason is that tinnitus has no cure. But that might be changing. A study published in PLOS Biology seems 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.

Tinnitus Has a Cloudy Set of Causes

Someone who has tinnitus will hear a buzzing or ringing (or other noises) that don’t have an outside source. Tinnitus is quite common and millions of individuals deal with it to some degree.

It’s also a symptom, broadly speaking, and not a cause unto itself. Basically, something causes tinnitus – there’s an underlying issue that creates tinnitus symptoms. One of the reasons why a “cure” for tinnitus is elusive is that these underlying causes can be difficult to pin down. There are numerous reasons why tinnitus can occur.

True, most people attribute tinnitus to hearing loss of some kind, but even that relationship is murky. 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, 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 pointed to a culprit of tinnitus: inflammation.

According to the tests and scans performed on these mice, inflammation was seen around the areas of the brain responsible for hearing. This reveals that some injury is occurring as a result of noise-induced hearing loss which we currently don’t comprehend because inflammation is the body’s response to injury.

But new types of treatment are also made possible by this discovery of inflammation. Because inflammation is something we know how to address. The symptoms of tinnitus cleared up when the mice were given drugs that inhibited inflammation. Or it became impossible to observe any symptoms, at least.

So is There a Magic Pill That Cures Tinnitus?

If you take a long enough view, you can probably view this research and see how, eventually, there could easily be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine if you could just take a pill in the morning and keep tinnitus at bay all day without needing to resort to all those coping mechanisms.

We may get there if we can tackle a few hurdles:

  • We need to make sure any new strategy is safe; it could 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 approach is considered safe for people, there’s still a significant amount of work to do.
  • The precise cause of tinnitus will be distinct from person to person; it’s difficult to know (at this point) whether all or even most tinnitus is linked to inflammation of some sort.

So it might be a while before we have a pill for tinnitus. But it’s a genuine possibility in the future. If you have tinnitus now, that represents a significant increase in hope. And numerous other tinnitus treatments are also being researched. The cure for tinnitus gets closer and closer with every discovery and every bit of new knowledge.

Is There Anything You Can Do?

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 real results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the underlying issue.

There are cognitive therapies that help you learn to ignore tinnitus sounds and others that utilize noise cancellation strategies. Many people also find relief with hearing aids. A cure might be many years off, but that doesn’t mean you need 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.



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

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