Woman with ringing in her ears.

You learn to adjust to life with tinnitus. In order to drown out the persistent ringing, you always keep the TV on. The loud music at happy hour makes your tinnitus much worse so you refrain from going out with your coworkers. You’re always making appointments to try new techniques and therapies. Over time, you simply integrate your tinnitus into your daily life.

The primary reason is that tinnitus has no cure. But they could be getting close. A study published in PLOS Biology seems to offer hope that we may be getting closer to a lasting and reliable cure for tinnitus. For now, hearing aids can really be helpful.

Tinnitus Has a Cloudy Set of Causes

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

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. It can be difficult to narrow down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one of the reasons why a cure is so elusive. There are numerous reasons why tinnitus can occur.

Even the link between tinnitus and hearing loss is not well understood. 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, led a study published in PLOS Biology. Mice with noise-induced tinnitus were experimented on by Dr. Bao. And the results of these experiments pointed to a culprit of tinnitus: inflammation.

Scans and tests done on these mice revealed that the areas of the brain in control of listening and hearing persistently had significant inflammation. This suggests that some damage is taking place as a consequence of noise-related hearing loss which we currently don’t understand because inflammation is the body’s response to injury.

But this discovery of inflammation also leads to the possibility of a new form of treatment. Because we know (broadly speaking) how to manage inflammation. The symptoms of tinnitus went away when the mice were given drugs that inhibited 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 look, you can probably view this research and see how, one day, there might easily be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine that, rather than investing in these various coping mechanisms, you can just pop a pill in the morning and keep your tinnitus at bay.

We could get there if we can overcome a few hurdles:

  • Not everybody’s tinnitus will be caused the same way; whether all or even most cases of tinnitus are linked to some kind of inflammation is still difficult to identify.
  • We need to be sure any new approach is safe; these inflammation blocking medications will have to be tested over time to rule out side effects and any potential concerns.
  • Mice were the focus of these experiments. Before this approach is considered safe for people, there’s still a substantial amount of work to do.

So it may be a while before we have a pill for tinnitus. But it’s not at all impossible. That’s considerable hope for your tinnitus down the road. And, obviously, this strategy in treating tinnitus is not the only one currently being studied. Every new development, every new bit of knowledge, brings that cure for tinnitus just a little bit closer.

What Can You do Now?

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

Some approaches include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies designed to help you ignore the sounds connected to your tinnitus. Many individuals also get relief with hearing aids. You don’t need to go it alone despite the fact that a cure is likely 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 getting the right treatment.

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