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Woman with ringing in her ears.

You learn to adapt to living with tinnitus. You always leave the TV on to help you tune out the continuous ringing. The loud music at happy hour makes your tinnitus much worse so you refrain from going out with your coworkers. You make appointments routinely to try out new therapies and new treatments. Ultimately, your tinnitus just becomes something you fold into your daily life.

The primary reason is that tinnitus can’t be cured. But they could be getting close. Research published in PLOS Biology appears to give hope that we may be getting closer to a permanent and reliable cure for tinnitus. Until then, hearing aids can be really helpful.

The Exact Causes of Tinnitus Are Not Clear

Tinnitus usually is experienced as a ringing or buzzing in the ear (though, tinnitus could manifest as other sounds as well) that do not have an external cause. A disorder that affects millions of individuals, tinnitus is incredibly common.

Generally speaking, tinnitus is itself a symptom of an underlying problem and not a cause in and of itself. Basically, something causes tinnitus – there’s an underlying issue that produces tinnitus symptoms. One reason why a “cure” for tinnitus is evasive is that these underlying causes can be difficult to pin down. Tinnitus symptoms can develop due to numerous reasons.

True, most people attribute tinnitus to hearing loss of some type, but even that relationship is unclear. There’s a link, sure, but not all people who have tinnitus also have hearing loss (and vice versa).

Inflammation: a New Culprit

Research published in PLOS Biology detailed a study led by Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor of physiology at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tuscon. Mice with noise-induced tinnitus were experimented on by Dr. Bao. And the results of these experiments indicated a culprit of tinnitus: inflammation.

Tests and scans done on these mice found that the parts of the brain in control of listening and hearing consistently had significant inflammation. This reveals that some injury is happening as a result of noise-related hearing loss which we presently don’t understand because inflammation is the body’s reaction to damage.

But new types of treatment are also made available by this knowledge of inflammation. 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 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 might 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 needing to resort to all those coping mechanisms.

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

  • Not everyone’s tinnitus will have the same cause; it’s hard to identify (at this stage) whether all or even most tinnitus is related to inflammation of some sort.
  • First, these experiments were done on mice. Before this strategy is considered safe for humans, there’s still a significant amount of work to do.
  • We need to make sure any new strategy is safe; these inflammation blocking medications will have to be tested over time to rule out side effects and any potential concerns.

So, a pill for tinnitus may be a long way off. But it’s a genuine possibility in the future. That’s considerable hope for your tinnitus down the road. And numerous other tinnitus treatments are also 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?

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 utilize noise cancellation strategies. Many people 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 worrying 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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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.
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