When your ears start ringing incessantly, leading a normal life becomes difficult. Tinnitus affects around 29.7 million people in the United States. From ringing and buzzing to hissing and whirring, each case has the potential to cause severe distress.
Although many people experience transient cases of tinnitus, some are long-term sufferers. Now that there’s a new drug on the horizon, could those individuals be looking forward to an annoyance-free lifestyle?
What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a condition where you may hear a constant noise, but there’s no external sound for it. Some describe this noise as a buzzing or ringing, whereas others perceive it as hissing. In a small number of cases, patients can hear a song or the sound of their heartbeat. These conditions are known as musical tinnitus and pulsatile tinnitus.
Whatever the cause, the condition can feel distressing. Some people are unable to switch off from the noise and find it distracting. As a result, they feel incredibly stressed. For others, the noise makes it impossible for them to sleep. As such, while tinnitus may sound like a small annoyance at first, it can have severe consequences.
How does the new drug work?
The drug in question blocks a protein that fuels brain inflammation. Although there’s no official known cause for tinnitus, it is associated with certain conditions. Such conditions include Meniere’s disease and diabetes.
One protein, called TNF-A, is believed to make the condition worse. The drug that’s being trialled in the United States blocks it, reducing the likelihood that the patient will experience tinnitus. To test it, they measured the drug’s effects on rats that had induced tinnitus following being exposed to loud sounds for two hours. When administering the drug to them, they found that it blocks TNF-A and may, therefore, make the ongoing noise less likely to occur.
What are the current treatment options?
At present, treatment options for tinnitus are quite limited. No medications are specific to the condition itself, but they may have a small effect on relieving symptoms. They include:
- Removing impacted earwax. This could make it easier for sounds to travel, which in turn reduces the risk of hearing noises.
- Changing your medications. Some medications come with tinnitus as a side-effect. As such, if the doctor prescribing them can find an alternative, they will do so.
- If you suffer from hearing loss, finding an appropriate hearing aid may make symptoms less likely.
- Tricyclic antidepressants such as amitryptiline are available for extreme cases.
If you’re currently suffering from tinnitus, the latest developments are excellent news. In the meantime, continuing discussing your options with a physician.
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