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Woman with ringing in her ears.

You learn to adjust to living with tinnitus. In order to drown out the persistent ringing, you always keep the TV on. You avoid going out for happy hour with friends because the loud music at the bar makes your tinnitus worse for days. You make appointments routinely to try new therapies and new techniques. Over time, you simply integrate your tinnitus into your daily life.

Mostly, that’s because there’s no cure for tinnitus. But they could be getting close. We might be getting close to an effective and lasting cure for tinnitus according to research published in PLOS biology. For now, hearing aids can really be helpful.

Tinnitus Has a Cloudy Set of Causes

Someone who has tinnitus will hear a buzzing or ringing (or other sounds) that don’t have an outside source. A condition 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 generally caused by something else. One of the reasons why a “cure” for tinnitus is elusive is that these root causes can be hard to pin down. There are a number of reasons why tinnitus can manifest.

True, most individuals attribute tinnitus to hearing loss of some type, but even that relationship is unclear. Some individuals 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 pointed to a culprit of tinnitus: inflammation.

Tests and scans carried out on these mice revealed that the regions of the brain responsible for listening and hearing consistently had considerable inflammation. This suggests that some injury is occurring as a consequence of noise-related hearing loss which we currently don’t understand because inflammation is the body’s response to damage.

But this discovery of inflammation also brings about the potential for a new kind of treatment. Because we know (broadly speaking) how to handle inflammation. When the mice were given drugs that impeded the observed inflammation response, the symptoms of tinnitus disappeared. Or it became impossible to detect any symptoms, at least.

Does This Mean There’s a Pill For Tinnitus?

This research does seem to suggest that, eventually, there may actually 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 big hurdles in the way:

  • Any new approach needs to be demonstrated to be safe; these inflammation blocking medicines will have to be tested over time to rule out side effects and any potential complications.
  • Mice were the focus of these experiments. Before this strategy is considered safe for humans, there’s still a substantial amount of work to do.
  • Not everybody’s tinnitus will be caused the same way; it’s hard to know (at this stage) whether all or even most tinnitus is linked to inflammation of some kind.

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 numerous other tinnitus treatments are also being researched. Every new discovery, every new bit of knowledge, brings that cure for tinnitus just a little bit closer.

Is There Anything You Can Do?

In the meantime, individuals with tinnitus should feel optimistic that in the future there will be a cure for tinnitus. Even though we don’t have a cure for tinnitus, there are some modern treatments that can provide real results.

There are cognitive treatments that help you learn to ignore tinnitus sounds and others that employ noise cancellation strategies. 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 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.