Tinnitus (Holistic)

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About This Condition

Roaring or ringing in your ears may mask other sounds and make it difficult to sleep. What can you do to tame tinnitus and hear clearly again? According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful.
  • Rest easy with melatonin

    Improve sleep quality and relieve other symptoms of severe tinnitus by taking 3 mg of this natural hormone every night

  • Think zinc

    See a doctor to determine if you are zinc-deficient; if so, taking 90 mg of this essential mineral per day (along with 2 or 3 mg per day of copper) for three months may help

  • Get a checkup

    Visit your healthcare provider to find out if your tinnitus is caused by a treatable medical condition

About

About This Condition

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.

Symptoms

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.

Holistic Options

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.1 Most trials have shown no advantage of acupuncture treatment over placebo for the treatment of tinnitus.2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 7 , 8 A review of clinical trials concluded that acupuncture is not an effective treatment for tinnitus.9

Eating Right

The right diet is the key to managing many diseases and to improving general quality of life. For this condition, scientific research has found benefit in the following healthy eating tips.

Recommendation Why
Eat a high-fiber diet
In one study, people with Ménière's disease (a Condition involving tinnitus) who ate a diet high in fiber and complex carbohydrates saw improvement of their 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.

Supplements

What Are Star Ratings?
Supplement Why
2 Stars
Melatonin (Insomnia)
Take under medical supervision: 3 mg daily at bedtime
Supplementing with melatonin may improve sleep quality and relieve other symptoms of severe tinnitus.

Caution: Melatonin is a potent hormone and its long-term safety is not established. Melatonin should only be taken with medical supervision.

In a double-blind trial, melatonin supplementation (3 mg taken nightly) improved symptoms of tinnitus. 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 the placebo. Similar improvements in tinnitus were reported in a preliminary trial that used 3 mg of melatonin each night for four weeks.

2 Stars
Melatonin
Take under medical supervision: 3 mg dailly at bedtime
Supplementing with melatonin may improve sleep quality and relieve other symptoms of severe tinnitus.

Caution: Melatonin is a potent hormone and its long-term safety is not established. Melatonin should only be taken with medical supervision.

In a double-blind trial, melatonin supplementation (3 mg taken nightly) improved the symptoms of tinnitus. 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. Similar improvements in tinnitus were reported in a preliminary trial that used 3 mg of melatonin each night for four weeks.

2 Stars
Zinc
Take under medical supervision: 90 mg daily (with 2 or 3 mg per day of copper to prevent depletion)
For people deficient in zinc, supplementing with zinc may help improve their 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). Such large amounts of zinc should be monitored by a doctor. Two controlled clinical trials 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. A doctor can measure blood levels of zinc.

1 Star
Coenzyme Q10
Refer to label instructions
For people who are deficient in CoQ10, supplementing with the nutrient may improve tinnitus.

In a preliminary trial, supplementation with coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) in the amount of 100 mg three times per day for 16 weeks significantly improved tinnitus in people who had initially low blood levels of CoQ10. However, CoQ10 was not beneficial for people whose initial blood levels were not low.

1 Star
Ginkgo
Refer to label instructions
The herb ginkgo may be useful in treating tinnitus.

Ginkgo biloba has been used to treat tinnitus, with mixed results. The largest placebo-controlled trial to date failed to find any effect of 150 mg per day of ginkgo extract in people with tinnitus. 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. 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.

1 Star
Magnesium
Refer to label instructions
In a preliminary study, supplementation with magnesium resulted in a statistically significant improvement in symptoms in adults with tinnitus.
In a preliminary study, supplementation with magnesium (532 mg per day for 3 months) resulted in a statistically significant improvement in symptoms in adults with tinnitus. Double-blind trials are needed to confirm the results of this study.
1 Star
Periwinkle
Refer to label instructions
Periwinkle contains a compound that has been shown to reduce symptoms in people whose tinnitus is due to poor blood flow.

Lesser periwinkle(Vinca minor) contains a compound known as vincamine. Extracts containing vincamine have been used in Germany to help decrease tinnitus. 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. Because these extracts are not widely available outside of Germany, consult with a doctor knowledgeable in botanical medicine about obtaining them.

1 Star
Vitamin B12
Refer to label instructions
Vitamin B12 injections may help reduce the severity of tinnitus in people who are deficient in the vitamin.

People exposed to loud noise on the job who develop tinnitus are commonly deficient in Vitamin B12. 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.

References

1. Furugard S, Hedin PJ, Eggertz A, Laurent C. Acupuncture worth trying in severe tinnitus. Lakartidningen 1998;95:1922-8 [in Swedish].

2. Nielsen OJ, Moller K, Jorgensen KE. The effect of traditional Chinese acupuncture on severe tinnitus. A double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study with an open therapeutic surveillance. Ugeskr Laeger 1999;161:424-9 [in Danish].

3. Vilholm OJ, Moller K, Jorgensen K. Effect of traditional Chinese acupuncture on severe tinnitus: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical investigation with open therapeutic control. Br J Audiol 1998;32:197-204.

4. Axelsson A, Andersson S, Gu LD. Acupuncture in the management of tinnitus: a placebo-controlled study. Audiology 1994;33:351-60.

5. Nilsson S, Axelsson A, Li De G. Acupuncture for tinnitus management. Laryngoscope 1988;98:664-7.

6. Thomas M, Laurell G, Lundeberg T. Acupuncture for the alleviation of tinnitus. Scand Audiol 1992;21:245-51.

7. Marks NJ, Emery P, Onisiphorou C. A controlled trial of acupuncture in tinnitus. J Laryngol Otol 1984;98:1103-9.

8. Hansen PE, Hansen JH, Bentzen O. Acupuncture treatment of chronic unilateral tinnitus-a double-blind cross-over trial. Clin Otolaryngol 1982;7:325-9.

9. Park J, White AR, Ernst E. Efficacy of acupuncture as a treatment for tinnitus: a systematic review. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 2000;126:489-92 [review].