When will there be a cure for tinnitus?
A standardized single treatment effective against most types of tinnitus is likely a number of years away. Specifically, chronic tinnitus is considered to be difficult to treat. There were hopes that the QUIET-1 study sponsored by Autifony Therapeutics would yield promising results. However, the investigation failed to demonstrate efficacy and was terminated in October 2015. At this stage, the potentially most promising future option that might work for treating chronic tinnitus is that of the novel class of drugs targeting the Kv7-channels (for further reading, investigate terms such as RL-81, SF0034, SciFluor Life Sciences and Knopp Biosciences). However, the funding supporting this niche field of research is limited. Both institutional and private research is therefore restricted and slow. A partnership between Allergan and Pittsburgh University with the purpose of understanding how chronic tinnitus is maintained at the molecular level is also worth keeping an eye on. Lastly, a few niche clinical trials enrolling patients with chronic tinnitus are beginning to make progress with some indications of efficacy:
What are the causes of tinnitus?
The most common cause of tinnitus is noise exposure (either recreational or industrial noise). Both short-term and long-term noise exposure can cause hearing loss as well as tinnitus. In addition, tinnitus can develop due to ear infections, ototoxic medication, head injuries, whiplash, certain childhood infections, and possibly high fever (to name a few).
Are there any current treatments for tinnitus?
There are no standardized off-the-shelf treatments proven to be effective for tinnitus (whether chronic or acute). Some physicians may prescribe a course of steroids during the very acute stage, say, within the first day or two after an auditory insult (e.g. tinnitus resulting after attending a concert).
While research into future standardized treatments is ongoing, there are also studies being conducted on the repurposing of existing drugs as well as medical interventions/therapies for the treatment of tinnitus using existing technology. Some of these therapies being investigated include rTMS and electrical stimulation of the ear.
Can a single concert cause permanent tinnitus?
Can an audiogram be used to diagnose tinnitus?
No. But it can provide an indication if the person interpreting the results is mindful of how tinnitus doesn't correlate well with pure-tone audiometry. But ENTs are infamous for not reading up on the latest tinnitus research (unfortunately). For this reason, the excellent clinical guidelines (diagnostics and treatment) provided by TRI may be helpful to bring along for your next consultation. In addition, the latest research on many tinnitus-related topics can be found here as a collection of articles.
Why is not more being done to advance a cure for tinnitus?
This is a topic that often surfaces within the tinnitus community ‒ with no shortage of opinions being offered on the public online boards. It is a question that is not easily answered. But a partial answer to the question might consist of the following elements:
- In order to launch a standardized product for the treatment of tinnitus, it is a prerequisite that the necessary basic research has been accomplished before applied research can begin (through funding from private investors). It is therefore the responsibility of governments to prioritize tinnitus research during the initial stages until it becomes promising enough for private investors to get involved.
- Tinnitus is an "invisible disease". Suffering from a condition where the effects are not directly observable leaves healthcare professionals with little chance to be immediately concerned. That's just the way it is...
- There are many medical conditions in life that cause suffering. Tinnitus is but one of them. Governments cannot prioritize everything.
- The tinnitus community itself repeatedly demonstrates a low self-interest in promoting its own cause. Just look at the ATA which has around 10,000 paying members and compare that same figure with the two million Americans who suffer from tinnitus to a significant degree. Do you see a discrepancy?
Is stem cell therapy already available today?
Yes. The types of stem cells used within the field of regenerative medicine are already in clinical use today for a number of medical conditions. Sometimes it is possible to enroll via a clinical trial also.
What does stem cell therapy cost?
Stem cell therapy at a private clinical can range somewhat depending on the type of stem cells used as well as the medical condition to be treated. Typically, however, the price range is somewhere between $15,000 and $25,000. Clinical trials are free-of-charge but do come with a specific set of inclusion/exclusion criteria that the patient enrolling must meet. In addition, a clinical trial may be placebo-controlled.
Do you recommend any particular stem cell clinics?
For both my treatments, I was treated in Asia. In particular, the Bangkok stem cell community offers advanced therapy protocols and top-quality care. For certain medical conditions, the prognosis with stem cell therapy is really good. But for other conditions, do keep in mind that a specific outcome cannot be guaranteed (that's why clinical trials are necessary).
Last revision date: 7th March, 2018.