Learning to live with tinnitus is often how you manage it. You keep the television on to help you tune out the constant ringing. You skip going dancing because the loud music at the bar makes your tinnitus worse for days. You check in with specialists frequently to try new solutions and new strategies. You simply work tinnitus into your daily life after a while.
Tinnitus doesn’t have a cure so you feel helpless. Changes may be coming, however. New research published in PLOS Biology seems to offer promise that we might be getting closer to a permanent and reliable cure for tinnitus.
Causes of Tinnitus
Tinnitus normally manifests as a buzzing or ringing in the ear (although, tinnitus may be experienced as other sounds also) that don’t have a concrete cause. A problem that impacts over 50 million people in the United States alone, tinnitus is very common.
And it isn’t a cause itself but an indication of some other problem. Simply put, tinnitus is caused by something else – there’s a root problem that creates tinnitus symptoms. One of the reasons why a “cure” for tinnitus is elusive is that these underlying causes can be challenging to pin down. Tinnitus symptoms can occur due to numerous reasons.
Even the interaction between tinnitus and loss of hearing is not clear though the majority of people associate the two. There’s a link, certainly, but not all people who suffer from tinnitus also have hearing loss (and vice versa).
Inflammation: a New Culprit
Dr. Shaowen Bao, who is associate professor of physiology at Arizona College of Medicine in Tuscon has recently released research. Mice that had tinnitus brought about by noise induced loss of hearing were experimented on by Dr. Bao. And what she and her team discovered suggests a new tinnitus culprit: inflammation.
Inflammation was seen around the brain centers used for hearing when scans were performed on these mice. As inflammation is the body’s response to injury, this finding does indicate that noise-induced hearing loss may be causing some harm we don’t thoroughly understand yet.
But this finding of inflammation also brings about the opportunity for a new type of therapy. Because we know (generally speaking) how to deal with inflammation. When the mice were given medication that impeded the observed inflammation reaction, the symptoms of tinnitus disappeared. Or at the very least there were no longer observable symptoms of tinnitus.
Does This Mean There’s a Pill for Tinnitus?
One day there will most likely be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine if keeping your tinnitus at bay was a simple matter of taking your morning medicine and you could escape from all of the coping mechanisms you have to do now.
There are a few hurdles but that is certainly the goal:
- There are several causes for tinnitus; it’s really difficult to know (at this point) whether all or even most tinnitus is associated with inflammation of some type.
- To start with, these experiments were conducted on mice. This method is not approved yet for people and it might be a while before that happens.
- Any new approach needs to be confirmed to be safe; it may take some time to identify precise side effects, concerns, or problems related to these particular inflammation-blocking medications.
So it could be a long way off before we have a pill for tinnitus. But at least it’s now achievable. If you suffer from tinnitus now, that represents a substantial increase in hope. And, obviously, this strategy in managing tinnitus is not the only one presently being researched. Every new discovery, every new bit of knowledge, brings that cure for tinnitus just a bit closer.
Ca Anything be Done Now?
If you have a persistent ringing or buzzing in your ears today, the promise of a far off pill might give you hope – but not necessarily relief. Current treatments might not “cure” your tinnitus but they do provide real results.
Being able to tune out or ignore tinnitus noises, oftentimes using noise canceling headphones or cognitive therapies is what modern strategies are trying to do. You don’t need to wait for a cure to find relief, you can find help dealing with your tinnitus now. Discovering a therapy that works can help you spend more time doing what you love, and less time thinking about that buzzing or ringing in your ears. Schedule your appointment today.