Woman with ringing in her ears.

You learn to adjust to life with tinnitus. You always keep the television on to help you tune out the persistent ringing. The loud music at happy hour makes your tinnitus much worse so you avoid going out with your friends. You’re always making appointments to try new techniques and treatments. Ultimately, your tinnitus just becomes something you fold into your day-to-day life.

The main reason is that tinnitus can’t be cured. But they could be getting close. Research published in PLOS Biology appears to offer hope that we may be getting closer to a lasting and reliable cure for tinnitus. Until that happens, hearing aids can be really helpful.

The Precise Causes of Tinnitus Are Not Clear

Someone who is coping with tinnitus will hear a ringing or buzzing (or other sounds) that don’t have an external source. A disorder that impacts millions of people, 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 elusive is that these underlying causes can be difficult to pin down. There are a number of reasons why tinnitus can develop.

Even the connection between tinnitus and hearing loss is murky. Some people who have tinnitus do have hearing loss but some don’t.

A New Culprit: Inflammation

Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, led a study published in PLOS Biology. Mice who had noise-induced tinnitus were experimented on by Dr. Bao. And the results of these experiments indicated a culprit of tinnitus: inflammation.

Tests and scans done on these mice showed that the parts of the brain in control of listening and hearing persistently had significant inflammation. As inflammation is the body’s reaction to damage, this finding does suggest that noise-related hearing loss might be creating some damage we don’t really understand as yet.

But this discovery of inflammation also leads to the possibility of a new kind of treatment. Because we know (broadly speaking) how to handle inflammation. When the mice were given drugs that inhibited the observed inflammation reaction, the symptoms of tinnitus disappeared. Or, at least, those symptoms weren’t observable anymore.

Does This Mean There’s a Pill For Tinnitus?

If you take a long enough look, you can most likely look at 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 having to turn to all those coping mechanisms.

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

  • Not everybody’s tinnitus will be caused the same way; it’s difficult to know (at this point) whether all or even most tinnitus is connected to inflammation of some sort.
  • First, these experiments were carried out on mice. And there’s a lot to do before this specific strategy is considered safe and approved for people.
  • We need to be sure any new approach is safe; these inflammation blocking medicines will have to be tested over time to rule out side effects and any potential concerns.

So, a pill for tinnitus might be a long way off. But it’s not at all impossible. If you have tinnitus today, that represents a considerable increase in hope. And, of course, this approach in treating tinnitus isn’t the only one presently being explored. Every new discovery, every new bit of knowledge, brings that cure for tinnitus just a little bit closer.

Is There Anything You Can Do?

If you have a relentless ringing or buzzing in your ears now, the promise of a far-off pill might give you hope – but not necessarily relief. Although we don’t have a cure for tinnitus, there are some contemporary treatments that can provide real results.

Some methods include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies designed to help you ignore the sounds linked to your tinnitus. Hearing aids often provide relief for many individuals. You don’t need to go it alone in spite of the fact that a cure is probably several years away. 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

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