New research into tinnitus at the University of Leicester’s Department of Cell Physiology and Pharmacology has lead to an important new tinnitus finding that could allow for new drugs that could be used to treat tinnitus or ringing in the ears.  These new findings could bring a pharmaceutical to cure tinnitus.  There currently is no such treatment or drug therapy that will effectively help reduce tinnitus symptoms.

Research Scientiists Studying Tinnitus

Picture from blog.heartland.org

According to the journal “Hearing Research,” scientists believe that they have discovered a cellular mechanism that could be the culprit for the onset of tinnitus symptoms after exposure to loud sounds or noises.  Since there is no cure for tinnitus currently, this finding could bring an important new tinnitus treatment to the 10% of our population that is currently affected by ringing ears and other ear related maladies that are eventually diagnosed as tinnitus.

I found this news article at medicalnewstoday.com, and because it is written in medical speak, it is certainly not a sexy read, but if you suffer from tinnitus, that is of little consequence, because we all would like to have a permanent cure to tinnitus in the form of medication or some simple procedure.  While there are some holistic treatments that bring relief for many tinnitus sufferers, a medication that would prevent or cure tinnitus completely would be a great breakthrough for many people.  Petra Rattue of Medical News Today writes the following….

The journal Hearing Research now reveals that researchers from the University of Leicester’s Department of Cell Physiology and Pharmacology have discovered a cellular mechanism, which could be responsible for the development of tinnitus after exposure to loud noises. The finding could pave the way for the development of new drugs to treat tinnitus, and researchers are currently investigating potential drugs that could prevent the condition.

Research leader, Dr. Martine Hamann from Leicester University explained:

“We need to know the implications of acoustic over exposure, not only in terms of hearing loss but also what’s happening in the brain and central nervous system. It’s believed that tinnitus results from changes in excitability in cells in the brain – cells become more reactive, in this case more reactive to an unknown sound.”

The researchers examined cells in the brain’s dorsal cochlear nucleus area, which carries acoustic signals from the ear’s nerve cells into the parts of the brain that decode and ‘interpret’ sounds. Exposure to loud noises affects some of the neurons in the dorsal cochlear nucleus to behave in an uncontrolled manner by starting to fire erratically, which ultimately leads to tinnitus.

Dr Hamann declared:

“We showed that exposure to loud sound triggers hearing loss a few days after the exposure to the sound. It also triggers this uncontrolled activity in the neurons of the dorsal cochlear nucleus. This is all happening very quickly, in a matter of days.”

A major breakthrough was the team’s discovery of the particular cellular mechanism that leads to the neurons’ over-activity. They discovered that if potassium channels that help to control the nerve cell’s electrical activity malfunction, the neurons are unable to return to a balanced resting state. These cells normally fire regularly and also regularly return to a resting state, yet if the potassium channels are malfunctioning, the cells are unable to return to a resting state and therefore continuously fire in random bursts, which creates the sensation of a constant noise even though there is no noise.

Dr Hamann explained:

“In normal conditions the channel helps to drag down the cellular electrical activity to its resting state and this allows the cell to function with a regular pattern. After exposure to loud sound, the channel is functioning less and therefore the cell is constantly active, being unable to reach its resting state and displaying those irregular bursts.”

Even though numerous scientists have explored the dynamics of why tinnitus occurs, this is the first time that researchers have managed to characterize the cellular bursting activity in association with specific potassium channels. The ability to identify the potassium channels in the early stages of tinnitus paves the way for the development of new potential drug treatments to prevent the condition.

You can read the full original article here.

As a long time tinnitus sufferer myself, this is welcome news regarding a possible new breakthrough in tinnitus treatment options.  It is certainly our hope that these new findings could bring a pharmaceutical to cure tinnitus in the near future.  We will continue to monitor this story for further developments, but at the moment the research team is now exploring potential drugs that will control any damaged cells that are the root cause to ringing in the ears.  It appears that this drug is still a few years away, but at least we know that there is hope and that someone is doing the necessary research to bring a more permanent and lasting tinnitus cure.

In the interim, this does little for those of us that have tinnitus, particularly if your tinnitus symptoms are on the more extreme side.  If you are suffering from tinnitus and need help, and until a more complete cure for tinnitus is available, our top tinnitus treatment suggestion is located here.

Sources for this post:

APA

Petra Rattue. (2012, May 14). “Tinnitus Key Cellular Mechanisms Identified.” Medical News Today. Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/245357.php

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