Hearing Health Blog

Man suffering from ringing in the ears reads about new research into the causes of tinnitus.

When you suffer from tinnitus, you learn to deal with it. You keep the television on to help you tune the constant ringing out. You skip going dancing because the loud music at the bar makes your tinnitus worse for days. You’re regularly trying new therapies and techniques with your specialist. Eventually, your tinnitus just becomes something you work into your everyday life.

Mostly, that’s because there’s no cure for tinnitus. Changes could be coming, however. New research published in PLOS Biology seems to give promise that we could be getting closer to a permanent and effective cure for tinnitus.

Tinnitus Causes

You’re suffering from tinnitus if you hear a buzzing or ringing (or occasionally other sounds) with no objective cause. A condition that impacts over 50 million people in the United States alone, tinnitus is incredibly common.

And it’s not a cause itself but a symptom of something else. Put simply, tinnitus is caused by something else – tinnitus symptoms are the result of some underlying concern. One reason why a “cure” for tinnitus is evasive is that these underlying causes can be hard to pin down. Tinnitus symptoms can manifest due to numerous reasons.

Even the association between tinnitus and hearing loss is uncertain though most people connect the two. There is some relationship but some people have tinnitus and don’t have any loss of hearing.

A New Culprit: Inflammation

The new study published in PLOS Biology detailed a study performed by Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor of physiology at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tuscon. Dr. Bao performed experiments on mice who had tinnitus caused by noise-induced hearing loss. And what she and her team found out implies a new tinnitus culprit: inflammation.

Based on the scans and tests performed on these mice, inflammation was observed in the areas of the brain in control of hearing. As inflammation is the body’s response to damage, this finding does indicate that noise-induced hearing loss could be causing some damage we don’t completely understand yet.

But a new form of approach is also made available by these results. Because handling inflammation is something we know how to do (generally). When the mice were given drugs that inhibited the detected inflammation reaction, the symptoms of tinnitus disappeared. Or, at least, those symptoms were no longer observable.

Does This Mean There’s a Pill for Tinnitus?

One day there will probably be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine that–instead of counting on these various coping mechanisms, you can just pop a pill in the morning and keep your tinnitus at bay.

There are a couple of hurdles but that is certainly the goal:

  • There are many causes for tinnitus; Whether any particular types of tinnitus are associated with inflammation is still unclear.
  • All new approaches need to be confirmed to be safe; it might take a while to identify precise side effects, concerns, or challenges related to these particular medications that block inflammation.
  • These experiments were performed first on mice. This approach is not yet approved for humans and it may be a while before that happens.

So it could be pretty far off before we have a pill to treat tinnitus. But at least it’s now achievable. If you suffer from tinnitus now, that signifies a significant increase in hope. And other techniques are also being researched. Every new finding, every new bit of knowledge, brings that cure for tinnitus just a bit closer.

What Can You do Today?

You might have hope for an eventual tinnitus pill but that isn’t going to offer you any relief for your prolonged buzzing or ringing now. Modern treatments may not “cure” your tinnitus but they do produce real results.

Being able to tune out or ignore tinnitus sounds, oftentimes using noise canceling headphones or cognitive therapies is what modern strategies are aiming to do. A cure may be several years away, but that doesn’t mean you have to deal with tinnitus on your own or unassisted. Finding a treatment that works can help you spend more time doing what you enjoy, and less time thinking about that buzzing or ringing in your ears. Set up your appointment today.

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