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 television on to help you tune out the persistent ringing. The loud music at happy hour makes your tinnitus a lot worse so you avoid going out with your friends. You’re always making appointments to try new techniques and therapies. Over time, you simply fold your tinnitus into your everyday life.

Mainly, that’s because there isn’t a cure for tinnitus. But they could be getting close. We may be getting close to a reliable and permanent cure for tinnitus according to research published in PLOS biology. In the meantime, hearing aids can really be helpful.

Tinnitus Has a Murky Set of Causes

Tinnitus usually manifests as a ringing or buzzing in the ear (though, tinnitus could present as other sounds as well) that do not have an objective cause. A disorder that affects millions of people, tinnitus is very common.

It’s also a symptom, broadly speaking, and not itself a cause. In other words, something causes tinnitus – there’s an underlying problem that creates tinnitus symptoms. It can be hard to narrow down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one of the reasons why a cure is so evasive. There are a number of reasons why tinnitus can develop.

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

A New Culprit: Inflammation

Research published in PLOS Biology detailed a study conducted by Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor of physiology at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tuscon. Dr. Bao performed experiments on mice who had tinnitus caused by noise-induced hearing loss. 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 consistently had significant inflammation. This suggests that some injury is happening as a result of noise-induced hearing loss which we currently don’t understand because inflammation is the body’s reaction to injury.

But new kinds of treatment are also made possible by this discovery of inflammation. Because we know (broadly speaking) how to deal with inflammation. When the mice were given drugs that inhibited the observed inflammation response, the symptoms of tinnitus disappeared. Or it became impossible to observe any symptoms, at least.

Does This Mean There’s a Pill For Tinnitus?

This research does appear to suggest that, in the long run, there may actually 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 resort to all those coping mechanisms.

That’s certainly the goal, but there are several big hurdles in the way:

  • Any new approach needs to be demonstrated to be safe; it could take some time to determine particular side effects, complications, or problems linked to these particular inflammation-blocking medications.
  • Mice were the subject of these experiments. And there’s a lot to do before this particular approach is considered safe and approved for people.
  • The exact cause of tinnitus will be distinct from person to person; whether all or even most instances of tinnitus are related to some sort of inflammation is still hard to know.

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

What Can You do Now?

In the meantime, people 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 contemporary treatments that can produce real results.

Some approaches include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies designed to help you ignore the sounds linked to your tinnitus. Hearing aids often offer 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. Finding a treatment that works can help you spend more time doing things you love, and less time thinking about that buzzing or ringing in your ears.

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