Woman with ringing in her ears.

You learn to adapt to life with tinnitus. You always keep the TV on to help you tune out the continuous ringing. You refrain from going out for happy hour with friends because the loud music at the bar makes your tinnitus worse for days. You’re always making appointments to try new techniques and therapies. Over time, you simply integrate your tinnitus into your daily life.

Mostly, that’s because there’s no cure for tinnitus. But they may be getting close. We may be getting close to an effective and lasting cure for tinnitus according to research published in PLOS biology. For now, hearing aids can really help.

The Precise Causes of Tinnitus Are Unclear

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

Generally speaking, tinnitus is itself a symptom of an underlying problem and not a cause in and of itself. In other words, something causes tinnitus – there’s an underlying problem that produces tinnitus symptoms. One of the reasons why a “cure” for tinnitus is evasive is that these root causes can be difficult to pin down. There are a number of reasons why tinnitus can manifest.

Even the connection between tinnitus and hearing loss is not well understood. 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. Dr. Bao performed experiments on mice who had tinnitus caused by noise-induced hearing loss. And what she and her colleagues discovered points to a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.

According to the scans and tests carried out on these mice, inflammation was discovered in the areas of the brain responsible for listening. This suggests that some injury is occurring as a consequence of noise-induced 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 inflammation is something we know how to address. When the mice were given drugs that impeded the observed inflammation reaction, the symptoms of tinnitus went away. 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 look, you can most likely look at this research and see how, eventually, there might easily be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine that, instead of investing in these various coping mechanisms, you can simply take a pill in the morning and keep your tinnitus at bay.

That’s certainly the goal, but there are a number of large hurdles in the way:

  • Not everybody’s tinnitus will be caused the same way; it’s hard to know (at this time) whether all or even most tinnitus is connected to inflammation of some type.
  • We need to make 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 complications.
  • Mice were the subject of these experiments. Before this approach is considered safe for humans, there’s still a substantial amount of work to do.

So it may be a while before there’s a pill for tinnitus. But it’s a genuine possibility in the future. If you have tinnitus today, that represents a substantial increase in hope. And several other tinnitus treatments are also being studied. Every new breakthrough, every new bit of knowledge, brings that cure for tinnitus just a little bit closer.

Is There Anything You Can Do?

For now, individuals with tinnitus should feel optimistic that in the future there will be a cure for tinnitus. Although we don’t have a cure for tinnitus, there are some modern treatments that can produce real benefits.

Some strategies include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies created to help you ignore the sounds linked to your tinnitus. Hearing aids often provide 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. Obtaining a treatment that works 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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