About one in five people in Lake Charles suffers from tinnitus. While its severity and impact vary by individual, one thing remains constant across the board: the lack of a cure. A recent scientific breakthrough might change that.

Inflammation of the Auditory Cortex is Key

Each person with tinnitus in Louisiana has a different experience. Some report a ringing in their ears while others describe it more as a buzzing, humming, clicking, whistling, roaring or whooshing. One person might find it barely noticeable, while another is so bothered that it affects every aspect of their life. Patients often suffer from anxiety, stress, depression, poor sleep, memory loss and concentration difficulties.

Currently, there is no cure for tinnitus, so doctors can only help patients manage their symptoms. Techniques include noise avoidance, tinnitus masking, exercise, meditation and relaxation exercises and lifestyle changes. The effectiveness of each strategy varies depending on the severity of that person’s tinnitus. In any case, all of these remedies help people live with tinnitus so that it becomes less of a distraction, but they don’t make it go away permanently.

Researchers from the University of Arizona have raised hopes that a permanent cure for tinnitus and other hearing disorders, including hyperacusis and central auditory processing disorder, might be close at hand. They performed studies on mice and the results, published in the PLOS Biology Journal, are encouraging. They have given scientists an idea about where tinnitus and other hearing loss-related conditions originate – in the auditory cortex, the region of the brain that is responsible for processing sound.

The research team discovered that inflammation in the auditory pathway was responsible for many of these hearing problems and that by blocking a specific protein responsible for the inflammation, they were actually able to effectively cure the mice by reversing their tinnitus.

The goal of their research was to examine the association between neuroinflammation (inflammation of the nervous system) and the auditory cortex to find out what kind of role this inflammation played in the development of tinnitus. Their experiments found that the TNF-A (tumour necrosis factor alpha) molecule interfered with communication between the hearing neurons. By blocking this molecule, they were able to treat and cure tinnitus in the test group of mice.

Because there might be side effects with this treatment, additional research is needed before trials on human subjects will begin. However, with such promising early results, it’s hard not to get excited over the possibility of a tinnitus cure.

If you or a loved one is experiencing a ringing or other phantom sound in your ears, there are steps you can take to make it less noticeable. Schedule an appointment with a Lake Charles audiologist to learn more.