Woman with ringing in her ears.

You learn to adapt to living with tinnitus. In order to tune out the persistent ringing, you always leave the TV on. You avoid going out for happy hour with friends because the loud music at the bar makes your tinnitus worse for days. You make appointments regularly to try new therapies and new treatments. Eventually, your tinnitus just becomes something you fold into your daily life.

Mainly, that’s because there isn’t a cure for tinnitus. But that could be changing. We might be getting close to a reliable and permanent cure for tinnitus according to research published in PLOS biology. In the meantime, hearing aids can really be helpful.

Tinnitus Has a Murky Set of Causes

Tinnitus normally 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. Tinnitus is quite 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. Tinnitus is generally caused by something else. One of the reasons why a “cure” for tinnitus is elusive is that these root causes can be hard to narrow down. Tinnitus symptoms can manifest due to numerous reasons.

Even the relationship between tinnitus and hearing loss is unclear. There’s a correlation, sure, but not all people who have tinnitus also have hearing loss (and vice versa).

A New Culprit: Inflammation

Research published in PLOS Biology outlined a study conducted by Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor of physiology at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tuscon. Mice with noise-related tinnitus were experimented on by Dr. Bao. And what she and her team discovered indicates a tinnitus culprit: inflammation.

According to the tests and scans performed on these mice, inflammation was discovered in the areas of the brain responsible for hearing. This indicates that some injury is occurring as a consequence of noise-related hearing loss which we presently don’t understand because inflammation is the body’s response to damage.

But this discovery of inflammation also leads to the potential for a new form of treatment. Because inflammation is something we know how to address. The symptoms of tinnitus went away when the mice were given drugs that inhibited inflammation. Or it became impossible to observe any symptoms, at least.

So is There a Magic Pill That Cures Tinnitus?

This research does appear to indicate that, eventually, 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 turn to all those coping mechanisms.

That’s certainly the goal, but there are several big hurdles in the way:

  • The precise cause of tinnitus will be distinct from person to person; it’s difficult to identify (at this time) whether all or even most tinnitus is linked to inflammation of some type.
  • First, these experiments were carried out on mice. And there’s a long way to go before this specific approach is deemed safe and approved for humans.
  • We need to be certain any new strategy is safe; it could take some time to identify particular side effects, complications, or issues related to these specific inflammation-blocking medications.

So it might be a while before we have a pill for tinnitus. But it’s a genuine possibility in the future. If you have tinnitus now, that represents a substantial increase in hope. And several 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.

Is There Anything You Can Do?

In the meantime, individuals who suffered from tinnitus should feel hopeful that in the future there will be a cure for tinnitus. There are modern treatments for tinnitus that can provide real results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the underlying issue.

Some approaches include noise-cancellation devices or cognitive therapies created to help you ignore the sounds linked to your tinnitus. Hearing aids often offer relief for many individuals. A cure might be a number of years off, but that doesn’t mean you need to deal with tinnitus alone or unassisted. Spending less time worrying about the ringing in your ears and more time doing the things you love can happen for you by finding the right treatment.

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