Hearing Health Blog

Woman with ringing in her ears.

You’re living with tinnitus and you’ve learned to adapt your life to it. You always keep the television on to help you tune out the continuous ringing. You avoid going out for happy hour with coworkers because the loud music at the bar makes your tinnitus worse for days. You’re always going in to try new techniques and treatments. Ultimately, your tinnitus just becomes something you integrate into your day-to-day life.

The main reason is that tinnitus can’t be cured. But they may be getting close. We may be getting close to a reliable and lasting cure for tinnitus according to research published in PLOS biology. Until then, hearing aids can be really helpful.

The Precise Causes of Tinnitus Are Not Clear

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

Generally speaking, tinnitus is itself a symptom of an underlying condition and not a cause in and of itself. Tinnitus is generally caused by something else. One reason why a “cure” for tinnitus is elusive is that these root causes can be difficult to pin down. There are several reasons why tinnitus can develop.

Even the connection between tinnitus and hearing loss is murky. There’s a connection, sure, but not all individuals who have tinnitus also have hearing loss (and vice versa).

Inflammation: a New Culprit

Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, directed a study published in PLOS Biology. Mice with 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 discovered in the areas of the brain responsible for hearing. This reveals that some injury is happening as a consequence of noise-related hearing loss which we presently don’t understand because inflammation is the body’s reaction to injury.

But this discovery of inflammation also brings about the potential for 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 response, the symptoms of tinnitus disappeared. Or it became impossible to detect any symptoms, at least.

So is There a Magic Pill That Cures Tinnitus?

This research does appear to indicate that, in the long run, there may actually be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine that, instead of investing in these numerous coping mechanisms, you can just take a pill in the morning and keep your tinnitus at bay.

That’s certainly the goal, but there are numerous huge hurdles in the way:

  • Mice were the subject of these experiments. Before this approach is considered safe for people, there’s still a substantial amount of work to do.
  • The precise cause of tinnitus will be distinct from person to person; it’s hard to know (at this stage) whether all or even most tinnitus is linked to inflammation of some kind.
  • We need to be certain any new strategy is safe; it could take some time to identify specific side effects, complications, or problems related to these specific inflammation-blocking medications.

So, a pill for tinnitus might be a long way off. But it’s a real possibility in the future. If you have tinnitus now, that represents a significant increase in hope. And, of course, this approach in managing tinnitus is not the only one presently being studied. The cure for tinnitus gets closer and closer with every discovery and every bit of new knowledge.

What Can You do Now?

If you have a relentless ringing or buzzing in your ears today, the promise of a far-off pill may provide you with hope – but not necessarily alleviation. There are modern treatments for tinnitus that can provide genuine results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the underlying problem.

There are cognitive therapies that help you learn to ignore tinnitus noises and others that employ noise cancellation strategies. Hearing aids frequently provide relief for many people. A cure may be a number of years off, but that doesn’t mean you have to deal with tinnitus alone or unaided. Obtaining a treatment that is effective can help you spend more time doing what you love, and less time focusing on that buzzing or ringing in your ears.

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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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