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What Causes Tinnitus? Here is Some New Research

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

When you have tinnitus, you learn to deal with it. To help tune it out you leave the television on. You skip going dancing because the loud music at the bar makes your tinnitus worse for days after. You’re always trying new solutions and techniques with your specialist. Eventually, your tinnitus just becomes something you fold into your daily way of life.

Tinnitus doesn’t have a cure so you feel helpless. Changes might be coming, however. New research published in PLOS Biology seems to give hope that we might be getting closer to a permanent and reliable cure for tinnitus.

Causes of Tinnitus

Tinnitus usually manifests as a ringing or buzzing in the ear (although, tinnitus might be present as other sounds also) that don’t have an objective cause. A problem that affects over 50 million people in the United States alone, tinnitus is remarkably common.

It’s also a symptom, generally speaking, and not a cause unto itself. In other words, tinnitus is caused by something else – there’s a root problem that brings about tinnitus symptoms. One of the reasons why a “cure” for tinnitus is elusive is that these root causes can be difficult to pin down. There are various possible reasons for tinnitus symptoms.

It is true, most people connect tinnitus to hearing loss of some kind, but even that link is not clear. There is some connection but some people have tinnitus and don’t have any loss of hearing.

Inflammation: a New Culprit

Dr. Shaowen Bao, who is associate professor of physiology at Arizona College of Medicine in Tuscon has recently released research. Dr. Bao performed experiments on mice who had tinnitus induced by noise-induced hearing loss. And what she and her team found out implies a new tinnitus culprit: inflammation.

Inflammation was found in the brain areas used for hearing when scans were performed on these mice. These Scans reveal that noise-induced hearing loss is causing some unidentified damage because inflammation is the body’s response to damage.

But a new form of approach is also made available by these findings. Because we know (generally speaking) how to deal with inflammation. When the mice were given medication that inhibited the observed inflammation response, the symptoms of tinnitus faded away. Or at the very least there were no longer observable symptoms of tinnitus.

So is There a Pill to Treat Tinnitus?

If you take a patient enough view, you can probably look at this study and see how, one day, there could easily be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine if keeping your tinnitus under control was a routine matter of taking your morning medication and you could escape from all of the coping mechanisms you have to do now.

That’s clearly the objective, but there are various significant hurdles in the way:

  • There are various causes for tinnitus; it’s difficult to understand (at this point) whether all or even most tinnitus is associated with inflammation of some kind.
  • To start with, these experiments were performed on mice. This method is not approved yet for people and it might be a while before it is.
  • All new approaches need to be proven safe; these inflammation blocking medications may have unsafe side effects that still need to be identified.

So, a pill for tinnitus might be pretty far off. But at least now it’s feasible. If you have tinnitus today, that means a substantial increase in hope. And other strategies are also being researched. Every new discovery, every new bit of knowledge, brings that cure for tinnitus a little bit nearer.

What Can You do Today?

You might have hope for an eventual tinnitus pill but that won’t offer you any relief for your constant buzzing or ringing right now. Current treatments may not “cure” your tinnitus but they do offer real results.

Being able to tune out or ignore tinnitus sounds, sometimes using noise canceling headphones or cognitive therapies is what modern methods are aiming to do. A cure could be several years away, but that doesn’t mean you have to cope with tinnitus by yourself or unaided. Discovering 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. Schedule your appointment right away.

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