Oxytocin is a hormone that’s released during childbirth and breastfeeding. But it’s best known as “the love hormone” because oxytocin flows through the bloodstream during times of intimacy. Don’t have a human to cuddle with? No worries. You can also get an oxytocin boost by snuggling up with a four-legged friend. And it turns out that the hormone may prove to be an effective remedy for tinnitus, that pesky phantom perception of sound or ringing in the ears that afflicts roughly a third of all people in the U.S. to some degree. The percentage soars to up to 85 in those that already have some degree of hearing loss.
So what’s this promising treatment for tinnitus, rates of which have been increasing because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The remedy is a nasal spray infused with oxytocin. Researchers believe that the hormone could theoretically dampen parts of the brain—the auditory cortex and the amygdala—that generates the constant ringing associated with tinnitus.
Of course, there’s always a catch to everything and the catch with the nasal spray is that it’s not yet commercially available. A second trial of the spray is planned soon after the initial testing was found to have significantly reduced symptoms in a small group of participants. The upcoming trial, to be conducted at New York University, will involve 30 participants, half of which will receive the oxytocin nasal spray while the other half receives a placebo. Participants will use the nasal spray four times a day for six months. The study conclusion is expected by June of next year.
Hopefully by then, the end of the pandemic will be declared. But even if the pandemic is on the wane, by then the SARS-COV-2 virus will have already caused tinnitus in an untold number of people. In a survey of 185 patients from an Italian hospital, 23 percent complained of tinnitus; some COVID-19 patients will have experienced long-term hearing loss.
It’s important to stress that just like the coronavirus, there is currently no cure for tinnitus, just several treatments. On that end, if you have tinnitus, manage it the best way possible by managing your stress. Meditation, yoga, journaling, exercise, having adequate vitamin B-12 levels, and eating whole foods (unprocessed) can all help dampen tinnitus.
Hopefully the oxytocin nasal spray will become commercially available by the end of next year. Between the nasal spray and the recent news that ambient electronic music combined with tongue stimulation also significantly reduces symptoms, people with tinnitus will, fingers crossed, no longer have to suffer nearly as much.