Every day, millions of Americans live with tinnitus. They live with the ringing and the frustration which can often take a toll on health and wellbeing. Tinnitus is considered one of the most common health conditions in the United States. With no known cure, researchers and sufferers are equally eager to find the source of the condition and how to treat it most effectively.
Recent research may have a new clue into this mystery.
What is tinnitus?
While tinnitus is often considered a condition in itself, it is most accurately described as a symptom. This ringing or buzzing in the ears can be caused by damage to the inner ear, fluid in the ear, impacted ear wax, ear infections or even an underlying medical condition. What is most concerning about tinnitus, according to experts, is that when left untreated, it has been linked to reduced socializing, increased anxiety, and even depression.
Because tinnitus involves hearing, the brain and the body, science has found it difficult to pinpoint a cure. The newest findings are now offering hope and exciting new insights into a possible cause of tinnitus.
According to a study out of the University of Arizona and published in PLOS Biology, inflammation in the brain, specifically in the sound-processing region, may be linked to tinnitus.
The team, led by Shaowen Bao, examined neuroinflammation in the auditory cortex of mice after they had experienced noise-induced hearing loss. The researchers found that after the hearing loss, there were increased levels of proinflammatory cytokines present and the activation of non-neuronal cells called microglia. In other words, inflammation. When these and other inflammation-linked molecules were blocked and reduced through pharmacological intervention, tinnitus was prevented in the mice.
“It is too early to generalize these findings from rodent models to human tinnitus, or from noise-induced tinnitus to the tinnitus of other etiologies,” Bao told The Hearing Journal. “But we can begin to consider neuroinflammation as a potential risk factor for tinnitus.”
While more research is undoubtedly needed, these findings offer hope to the millions of Americans with hearing loss who may also be living with tinnitus. Something as simple as reducing the inflammation in the auditory cortex through medication could mean relief from the constant ringing or buzzing so many face.
How to manage tinnitus
The hope is that one day very soon, science can pinpoint the whys behind all types of tinnitus as well as how to prevent and resolve them. Until there is a cure, however, managing tinnitus with strategies like these is the best option to help prevent anxiety, depression and other health concerns:
If you are living with tinnitus, contact our office to learn more about managing the ringing in your ears to improve your quality of life. Through a hearing evaluation, we may be able to determine an underlying cause and the best ways for you to reduce the effects of tinnitus on your life.