When you suffer from tinnitus, you learn to cope with it. To help tune it out you keep the television on. And loud music at bars is causing your hearing loss to get worse so you stay away from going dancing. You check in with specialists regularly to try out new therapies and new techniques. Eventually, your tinnitus just becomes something you fold into your everyday way of life.
Tinnitus doesn’t have a cure so you feel powerless. But that might be changing. New research published in PLOS Biology seems to provide hope that we might be getting closer to a permanent and reliable cure for tinnitus.
Causes of Tinnitus
Tinnitus usually is experienced as a ringing or buzzing in the ear (though, tinnitus could be experienced as other noises as well) that don’t have an objective cause. A problem that affects over 50 million people in the United States alone, it’s incredibly common for people to suffer from tinnitus.
It’s also a symptom, in general, and not a cause unto itself. In other words, tinnitus is triggered by something else – tinnitus symptoms are the result of some underlying problem. These root causes can be hard to diagnose and that’s one reason why a cure is elusive. There are numerous possible causes for tinnitus symptoms.
True, the majority of people connect tinnitus to loss of hearing of some kind, but even that link is uncertain. There’s a connection, sure, but not all people who have tinnitus also have hearing loss (and vice versa).
A New Culprit: Inflammation
The new research published in PLOS Biology outlined a study lead by Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor of physiology at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tuscon. Dr. Bao did experiments on mice who had tinnitus induced by noise-induced loss of hearing. And a new culprit for tinnitus was discovered by her and her team: inflammation.
According to the scans and tests done on these mice, inflammation was observed in the parts of the brain responsible for hearing. These Scans reveal that noise-induced hearing loss is causing some unidentified damage because inflammation is the body’s reaction to damage.
But a new form of approach is also opened up by these findings. Because handling inflammation is something we know how to do (generally). When the mice were given drugs that impeded the detected inflammation response, the symptoms of tinnitus vanished. Or, at a minimum, those symptoms weren’t observable any longer
Does This Mean There’s a Pill for Tinnitus?
One day there will probably be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine if keeping your tinnitus at bay was a routine matter of taking your morning medication and you could escape from all of the coping mechanisms you need to do now.
That’s certainly the goal, but there are different big obstacles in the way:
- There are various causes for tinnitus; it’s hard to know (for now) whether all or even most tinnitus is related to inflammation of some type.
- These experiments were first performed on mice. This method isn’t yet approved for humans and it could be a while before that happens.
- All new approaches need to be proven safe; these inflammation blocking medications could have dangerous side effects that still need to be identified.
So it could be a long way off before we get a pill to treat tinnitus. But at least it’s now feasible. If you have tinnitus today, that means a substantial increase in hope. And, clearly, this strategy in treating tinnitus is not the only one currently being researched. Every new finding, every new bit of understanding, brings that cure for tinnitus just a little bit nearer.
What Can You do Today?
You might have hope for an eventual tinnitus pill but that won’t give you any relief for your prolonged buzzing or ringing now. There are current therapies for tinnitus that can deliver real results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the underlying issue.
Being able to tune out or ignore tinnitus sounds, oftentimes using noise canceling headphones or cognitive techniques is what modern strategies are striving to do. A cure could be a number of years away, but that doesn’t mean you have to cope with tinnitus alone or unassisted. Finding 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. Get in touch with us for a consultation today.