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Tinnitus

Rarely, tinnitus is due to an actual sound, such as blood rushing through an enlarged vein—a problem that requires medical treatment. More commonly the problem is due to nerve irritation from an unknown source or an underlying ear problem often induced by noise damage. The cause of tinnitus should be diagnosed by a doctor.

 

Rating Nutritional Supplements
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Melatonin (insomnia-associated)
Zinc (for deficiency only)

 
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Periwinkle
Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 







What are the symptoms of tinnitus?

Symptoms may include hearing buzzing, roaring, ringing, whistling, or hissing sounds. These sounds may be intermittent, continuous, or pulsing. Tinnitus may interfere with normal activities and sleep, and there may be an associated decrease in the ability to hear conversation or other sounds in the environment.

Dietary changes that may be helpful for tinnitus

Ménière’s disease (a condition characterized by tinnitus, vertigo, and hearing loss) is reportedly associated with various metabolic abnormalities, including elevations of serum cholesterol and/or triglycerides and abnormal regulation of blood sugar. In one trial, people with Ménière’s disease who replaced refined carbohydrates in their diet with foods high in fiber and complex carbohydrates frequently experienced an improvement or disappearance of their tinnitus.1

Nutritional supplements that may be helpful for tinnitus

Zinc supplements have been used to treat people who had both tinnitus and hearing loss (usually age-related). Of those who had initially low blood levels of zinc, about 25% experienced an improvement in tinnitus after taking zinc (90–150 mg per day for three to six months).2 Such large amounts of zinc should be monitored by a doctor. Two controlled clinical trials3 4 found no benefit from zinc supplementation (66 mg per day in one double-blind trial) in people with tinnitus. However, participants in these studies were not zinc deficient. Preliminary research suggests that zinc supplementation is only helpful for tinnitus in people who are zinc deficient.5 A doctor can measure blood levels of zinc.

In a double-blind trial, melatonin supplementation (3 mg taken nightly) improved the symptoms of tinnitus.6 Although improvement did not reach statistical significance for all participants, the results were significant in those who reported more severe symptoms (such as two-sided vs. one-sided tinnitus). Among participants who had difficulty sleeping due to tinnitus, 47% of those who took melatonin reported sleep improvement after one month, compared with only 20% of those who took placebo.

People exposed to loud noise on the job who develop tinnitus are commonly deficient in Vitamin B12.7 Intramuscular injections of vitamin B12 reduced the severity of tinnitus in some of these people. Injectable vitamin B12 is available only by prescription. The effect of oral vitamin B12 on tinnitus has not been studied.

Are there any side effects or interactions with tinnitus?

Refer to the individual supplement for information about any side effects or interactions.

 

Herbs that may be helpful for tinnitus

Lesser periwinkle(Vinca minor) contains a compound known as vincamine. Extracts containing vincamine have been used in Germany to help decrease tinnitus.8 Preliminary clinical trial data show that vinpocetine, a semi-synthetic version of vincamine, can help reduce symptoms in people whose tinnitus is due to poor blood flow.9 Because these extracts are not widely available outside of Germany, consult with a doctor knowledgeable in botanical medicine about obtaining them.

Ginkgo biloba has been used to treat tinnitus, with mixed results.10 The largest placebo-controlled trial to date failed to find any effect of 150 mg per day of ginkgo extract in people with tinnitus.11 Two smaller, controlled trials have found that standardized ginkgo extract (120 mg per day, containing 24% flavone glycosides and 6% terpene lactones), was effective at relieving the symptoms of tinnitus.12 13 One trial failed to find ginkgo beneficial, but used less than 30 mg of ginkgo extract per day, an amount unlikely to have any therapeutic effect.14

Are there any side effects or interactions with tinnitus?

Refer to the individual herb for information about any side effects or interactions.

Holistic approaches that may be helpful for tinnitus

Acupuncture has been studied as a treatment for tinnitus in several controlled trials. Preliminary trials have reported improvement in symptoms of tinnitus following acupuncture treatment, but this relief was either not permanent or did not reach statistical significance.15 Most trials have shown no advantage of acupuncture treatment over placebo for the treatment of tinnitus.16 17 18 19 20 21 22 A review of clinical trials concluded that acupuncture is not an effective treatment for tinnitus.23

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