Some clinical trials are also looking at treatments that could reduce or completely remove tinnitus.
Tinnitus is a sound that a person hears that doesn’t come from an external source. In the UK, 7.1 million people have tinnitus. Tinnitus is often described as ‘ringing in the ears’, but people can hear different sounds such as buzzing, clicking, whooshing or humming.
Subjective tinnitus is the most common form. Only the person who has tinnitus can hear the sound.
Objective tinnitus isn’t as common and is usually caused by abnormalities in the blood vessels or tiny muscles near the ear. A doctor examining the person can usually hear the sound too.
Currently, there is no cure for tinnitus and there are no pharmaceutical drugs that can silence it. People with tinnitus often have to use relaxation and psychological therapies to cope with the constant ‘ringing in the ears’. Tinnitus treatments under development aim to silence this ‘phantom sound’.
How tinnitus research could potentially benefit you in the future
A common cause of tinnitus is exposure to loud noise, but a number of other factors can also be involved. Damage to the ear can be one of them: that’s why a lot of people with hearing loss also have tinnitus. Tinnitus results from an exaggerated sensitivity of our hearing system, which makes people hear a sound that in reality does not exist.
Clinical trials for tinnitus are testing drugs that aim to decrease the sensitivity of the hearing system and stop the perceived sound. Some of the tinnitus treatments that were being tested in people have failed in clinical trials because they were shown not to be as efficient as initially thought in decreasing the tinnitus. However, other treatments are currently being tested.