If you suffer from a continual ringing in your ears – make that a ringing, humming, buzzing, pulsing, or potentially any number of repetitive sounds without the presence of an actual external noise – then you understand the struggle associated with finding relief for this symptom, otherwise known as tinnitus.
Tinnitus sufferers across the globe know that finding relief isn’t the same for everyone. And, though this relief is often diligently sought after, it can be a hard fought battle to obtain.
But, if you’re one of millions who suffer from tinnitus due to hearing loss, effective help may be on the way.
Studies in mice have recently shown that there may be a link between brain inflammation and tinnitus.
Why does this matter?
Well, researchers are hopeful that this discovered connection will lead to relief, or even a cure, for a wide range of tinnitus sufferers.
To understand the importance of their discovery, let’s first take a closer look at tinnitus and how hearing loss can affect the brain, causing this bothersome symptom.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss And Tinnitus
While there are many things that can cause tinnitus, the area we’ll focus on here is noise induced hearing loss.
When you’re exposed, over a long period of time, to loud noises, this can change how your brain processes sounds. This can also occur from sudden or excessively loud noises as well.
In such occurrences, tiny hair cells in your inner ear move in response to sound waves. This movement then causes electrical signals to move along your auditory nerve to your brain, where they are interpreted as sounds.
However, long term exposure to loud noises can damage the tiny hairs inside of your ear, causing them to bend or break. When this happens, electrical signals can send impulses to your brain at random times, even in the absence of sound, causing tinnitus.
But, what researchers are finding is that the damage incurred from exposure to loud noises isn’t just happening within the ear, but in the brain as well, where noise induced hearing loss is causing inflammation.
So, by finding inflammation in the areas of the brain where sound is processed, this led researchers to look for a connection between this inflammation and its effects, namely tinnitus.
The hope here is that being able to understand the link between this kind of brain inflammation and how it relates to hearing loss (and thus tinnitus) may be the key to blocking or even reversing tinnitus.
Here’s what they’ve found to date…
What The Research Says
Recent studies involving mice are revealing promising things regarding the treatment, or dare we say potential cure, for tinnitus.
Within these studies, researchers have observed inflammation in the brains of mice who have suffered noise-induced hearing loss.
And, if your light bulb just came on, like mine, chances are you’re thinking, hmmm, and why wouldn’t we find inflammation where noise induced hearing loss has occurred, as we know that inflammation is our body’s response to injury.
If you’ve suffered hearing loss due to excessively loud (repetitive or instantaneous) noise, it would make sense that your body would initiate a response (technically an overreaction) from your immune system in regards to that injury. And, this, of course, is what causes inflammation.
So then, in the process of the brain suffering this damage, in the body’s efforts to repair this injury, special immune cells found within the brain and spinal cord respond.
Within this response, proinflammatory cytokines are produced. And, those cytokines have proven to be the key to this potential treatment.
Digging a bit deeper and getting a little more scientific at this point: Researchers observed heightened levels of these pro-inflammatory cytokines in the auditory cortex of the mice who’d suffered noise induced hearing loss.
And, within this discovery, scientists also found that “the cytokine TNF-alpha, a cell-signaling protein involved in systemic inflammation is necessary for noise-induced neuroinflammation and tinnitus.”
Why is this an exciting, bold print type, piece of information?
Because, if that cytokine is necessary in instances of noise-induced inflammation, then finding a way to block or eliminate that cytokine could effectively eliminate tinnitus!
And, that’s exactly what researchers observed as they tested out this theory.
In those mice with noise induced hearing loss, when researchers used a pharmacological drug to block the TNF-alpha, signs of tinnitus were completely eliminated.
And, even better…this isn’t a new area of study, making these findings a real breakthrough!
Scientists have been evaluating ways to block other factors linked to tinnitus in hearing loss for years, however, roadblocks were often encountered when teams didn’t know exactly which component to appropriately block.
Here, as researchers have discovered the effects of blocking brain inflammation, work can continue focusing on specifically blocking the correct neurotransmitters needed to stop tinnitus.
So, while this discovery isn’t an immediate cure-all for tinnitus sufferers, meaning the road to officially effective treatment in humans is still a long one, these findings have opened the door for further studies, hopefully leading to relief for millions suffering from not only tinnitus, but hearing loss as well.
#1 Cause of Tinnitus (and what to do now…)
A new study from the University of Arizona just uncovered what truly causes ringing…
And it has NOTHING to do with infection, hearing loss, or loud sounds.
In fact, ringing doesn’t even start in your ears…
Luckily, an American researcher just found a simple method to fight the #1 cause of tinnitus…
Without relying on hearing aids, expensive meds, or invasive surgery.