Researchers look for cure for chronic ringing in ear

By Lori Lyle

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WAVE) -- This time of year, lots of things can leave our ears ringing -- noisy fireworks, loud concerts, even lawn mowers. That's normal, but if the ringing doesn't stop, that's a problem. WAVE 3 Medical Reporter Lori Lyle explains.

It's a condition that sends millions of people to their doctor every year in the U.S. -- the only problem is, for many, there is no cure. Now there's a new study under way to see if a common over the counter supplement may help.

When Travis Broome is playing video games with his friends he doesn't seem to notice the constant ringing in his ear. But when the music stops, the ringing starts again.

For Travis, the problem started months ago when he attended a wedding reception. "I got a little to close to one of the speakers at a very loud part of the song, and I recall it sort of being a little shocking at the time."

The medical term for that ringing sound is tinnitus. And, technically, it's not so much a sound in the ear as it is a short circuit in the brain.

The brain picks up on this pathway of the sound and then plays it over and over again.

So, hoping to break that cycle, Dr. Abraham Jacob at the Ohio State University Medical Center is launching a study.

In serious cases there is no cure for the ringing, but he wants to see if the common, over the counter supplement melatonin might help.

"Melatonin is essentially a hormone type agent that is produced by our own brain -- it helps us regulate sleep. But there have been two small studies that suggest there might be some benefit in tinnitus."

Dr. Jacob's study will be larger and more thorough than previous studies -- involving more patients like Travis, who are looking for some sound solutions to this annoying problem.

Doctors say tinnitus can be caused by a sudden loud noise -- or it can appear with no obvious cause. Because there is no cure, many patients simply learn to cope with the sound or use white noise like fans to cover it up.

Online Reporter: Lori Lyle

Online Producer: Michael Dever