Woman with ringing in her ears.

You learn to adjust to life with tinnitus. In order to tune out the continuous ringing, you always leave the TV on. 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 fold your tinnitus into your daily life.

The primary reason is that tinnitus can’t be cured. But that may be changing. A study published in PLOS Biology appears to offer hope that we may be getting closer to a permanent and effective cure for tinnitus. Until then, hearing aids can be really helpful.

The Specific Causes of Tinnitus Are Unclear

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

It’s also a symptom, generally speaking, and not a cause unto itself. In other words, something causes tinnitus – there’s an underlying problem that produces tinnitus symptoms. One of the reasons why a “cure” for tinnitus is elusive is that these root causes can be hard to narrow down. Tinnitus symptoms can manifest due to a number of reasons.

True, most people attribute tinnitus to hearing loss of some sort, but even that relationship is unclear. Some individuals who have tinnitus do have hearing loss but some don’t.

A New Culprit: Inflammation

Research published in PLOS Biology detailed a study directed by Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor of physiology at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tuscon. Dr. Bao carried out experiments on mice that had tinnitus caused by noise-induced hearing loss. And what she and her colleagues discovered points to a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.

According to the scans and tests carried out on these mice, inflammation was observed around the areas of the brain responsible for listening. As inflammation is the body’s reaction to damage, this finding does suggest that noise-related hearing loss may be causing some damage we don’t fully comprehend yet.

But new forms of treatment are also made available by this discovery of inflammation. Because inflammation is something we know how to manage. The symptoms of tinnitus went away when the mice were given drugs that impeded inflammation. Or, at least, those symptoms weren’t observable anymore.

Does This Mean There’s a Pill For Tinnitus?

If you take a long enough view, you can most likely look at this research and see how, eventually, 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 turn to all those coping mechanisms.

That’s definitely the goal, but there are several huge hurdles in the way:

  • Any new approach needs to be proven safe; these inflammation blocking medications will need to be tested over time to rule out side effects and any potential complications.
  • First, these experiments were carried out on mice. And there’s a lot to do before this specific strategy is deemed safe and approved for people.
  • The precise cause of tinnitus will be distinct from person to person; whether all or even most instances of tinnitus are related to some kind of inflammation is still difficult to identify.

So it might be a while before we have a pill for tinnitus. But it’s a genuine possibility in the future. That’s considerable hope for your tinnitus down the road. And, of course, this approach in managing tinnitus isn’t the only one presently being explored. The cure for tinnitus gets closer and closer with every discovery and every bit of new knowledge.

Is There Anything You Can Do?

If you have a relentless ringing or buzzing in your ears today, the potential of a far-off pill may provide you with hope – but not necessarily relief. There are modern treatments for tinnitus that can produce genuine results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the underlying issue.

Some strategies include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies created to help you ignore the sounds connected to your tinnitus. Many individuals also get relief with hearing aids. A cure might be many years off, but that doesn’t mean you have to deal with tinnitus alone or unaided. Spending less time worrying 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.