Woman with ringing in her ears.

You learn to adjust to life with tinnitus. You always leave the television on to help you tune out the constant ringing. You refrain from going out for happy hour with coworkers because the loud music at the bar makes your tinnitus worse for days. 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 that may be changing. A study published in PLOS Biology appears to give hope that we could be getting closer to a lasting and effective cure for tinnitus. Until then, hearing aids can be really helpful.

The Specific Causes of Tinnitus Are Not Clear

Tinnitus typically manifests as a ringing or buzzing in the ear (though, tinnitus could present as other sounds as well) that do not have an external cause. Tinnitus is very common and millions of people cope with it to some degree.

Generally speaking, tinnitus is itself a symptom of an underlying condition and not a cause in and of itself. Basically, something causes tinnitus – there’s a root problem that creates tinnitus symptoms. It can be hard to pin down the cause of tinnitus and that’s one of the reasons why a cure is so elusive. There are several reasons why tinnitus can occur.

Even the link 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, directed a study published in PLOS Biology. Mice who had noise-related tinnitus were experimented on by Dr. Bao. And the results of these experiments pointed to a culprit of tinnitus: inflammation.

According to the scans and tests performed on these mice, inflammation was observed around the areas of the brain responsible for listening. As inflammation is the body’s reaction to damage, this finding does suggest that noise-related hearing loss may be creating some damage we don’t completely comprehend as of yet.

But this discovery of inflammation also brings about the potential for a new form of treatment. Because inflammation is something we know how to deal with. The symptoms of tinnitus cleared up when the mice were given drugs that impeded inflammation. Or it became impossible to detect any symptoms, at least.

Does This Mean There’s a Pill For Tinnitus?

If you take a long enough view, you can most likely view this research and see how, eventually, there could easily 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 resort to all those coping mechanisms.

We may get there if we can tackle a few hurdles:

  • We need to make sure any new approach is safe; it might take some time to identify particular side effects, complications, or issues related to these specific inflammation-blocking medications.
  • First, these experiments were done on mice. Before this approach is considered safe for humans, there’s still a substantial amount of work to do.
  • The precise cause of tinnitus will differ from person to person; it’s hard to know (at this time) whether all or even most tinnitus is related to inflammation of some kind.

So, a pill for tinnitus might be a long way off. But it’s a genuine possibility in the future. If you have tinnitus now, that represents a significant increase in hope. And several other tinnitus treatments are also being studied. The cure for tinnitus gets closer and closer with every breakthrough and every bit of new knowledge.

Is There Anything You Can Do?

For now, individuals who suffered from tinnitus should feel optimistic that in the future there will be a cure for tinnitus. There are modern treatments for tinnitus that can provide genuine results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the root problem.

There are cognitive treatments that help you learn to ignore tinnitus noises and others that use noise cancellation techniques. Hearing aids frequently provide relief for many people. A cure could be many years off, but that doesn’t mean you have to deal with tinnitus by yourself or unaided. Obtaining a treatment that is effective can help you spend more time doing what you love, and less time thinking about that buzzing or ringing in your ears.

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