People suffering from tinnitus are often dealing with misinformation when it comes to finding relief. Unfortunately, there’s a general lack of education on the topic amongst medical professionals, tons of conflicting reports online, and a whole lot of ads marketing different products as a cure with no scientific backing. Finding relief for the ringing in their ears may seem impossible at times, but we’re here to help.
Dealing with tinnitus is challenging, frustrating, and tiresome. If you suffer from ringing in your ears, you’ve likely seen a variety of different ads for miracle cures, like over-the-counter supplements and ear drops. And while these products may seem to be the long-lost solution you’ve been searching for, they aren’t. As of this writing, there is no cure for tinnitus, but there are different ways to find relief!
Let’s dive into supplements for tinnitus, and uncover why they aren’t the best course of action.
What Does The Medical Research Say About Vitamins And Mineral Supplements For Tinnitus?
Neither vitamins nor mineral supplements have been shown to be effective treatments for addressing tinnitus.
There is no conclusive evidence that supplements are a valid option when it comes to tinnitus relief. An article by Brazilian otolaryngologist, Dr. Cláudia Barros Coelho, MD, PhD, summarizes that when it comes to gingko biloba, zinc, vitamin B12, melatonin, flavonoids, and magnesium, nothing was considered significantly effective. In some cases it was found that tinnitus could be developed by patients with diets lacking certain vitamins and minerals, but not necessarily that taking these supplements reduces or cures tinnitus.
If a patient is determined to try supplements, Dr. Coelho recommends starting with blood work to discern what vitamin and mineral deficiencies you have, so that you may address them directly. As always, consulting with your physician is essential.
Another study looking into antioxidants as a supplement has shown positive results using vitamins, but researchers still conclude that studies are limited and conflicting. According to the American Tinnitus Association, “The research is clear in showing that dietary supplements are ineffective for reducing the perception of tinnitus.” In fact, the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery Foundation’s Clinical Practice Guideline states: Clinicians should not recommend Ginkgo biloba, melatonin, zinc, or other dietary supplements for treating patients with persistent bothersome tinnitus.
Research on finding a tinnitus cure is ongoing, until then, there are effective and safer ways to find relief!
Should You Take Supplements For Your Tinnitus?
The short answer is nobody. Supplements are not recommended because there isn’t enough evidence to support their use and the risk that dietary supplements may interact with other medications. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved their use. There might be a very specific subgroup of the population who may benefit from taking dietary supplements, but there aren’t enough well-designed investigations that have proven they are effective for treating tinnitus. If you want to try supplements anyway, start by consulting with your doctor and doing blood work to see which vitamins and minerals you may be deficient in, and go from there. No matter what, do not take dietary supplements until after speaking with your doctor.
Are Tinnitus Supplements Medication?
Absolutely not. While some believe that dietary supplements can provide tinnitus relief, there isn’t enough evidence to support that claim, and the FDA has not approved their use. Dietary supplements are just that, supplements, not medication. In fact, their name says it all, they are called dietary supplements because they are designed to supplement your diet. They are not medicine, and were not made to treat, prevent, or cure diseases. For a medicine to be sold and marketed, it needs FDA approval; supplements do not need such approval.
Is There A Risk Of Drug Interactions If I Take A Tinnitus Supplement?
Because dietary supplements are sold over the counter, they give a false impression of being safe to use at all times. The fact is, some of these supplements have far more ingredients in them than what you believe you’re taking. For example, a zinc supplement isn’t just zinc, there are other ingredients like dicalcium phosphate, stearic acid, or magnesium stearate. Depending on other health conditions you may have and the medications you take for them, these ingredients could interfere and hinder the effect of the other drug. This can be really dangerous, especially depending on the severity of your other health condition. Since most tinnitus patients don’t discuss supplements with their doctor, the risk of leading to problems is fairly high. That is why it is crucial to have conversations with your doctor before you start taking anything on your own, it’s for your own safety and well-being.
Popular Supplements For Tinnitus
Ginkgo biloba: Ginkgo biloba is the most commonly used supplement for tinnitus relief, and also the most studied dietary supplement. It is thought to increase inner ear and cerebral blood circulation, which is believed to help reduce tinnitus symptoms. Many trials have been performed with ginkgo biloba, but the results are inconclusive, with some showing improvements and others showing no change.
Zinc: When it comes to the body’s auditory pathway, zinc plays a fairly important role. It is responsible for several aspects of both cochlear and neuronal function. Studies have shown that zinc is just as effective as not taking anything at all, though it may benefit those suffering from a zinc deficiency.
Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 has a direct impact on the body’s neurologic and circulatory function. The body needs B12 to create mylen, the protective layer that covers and surrounds the nerves. Some studies have shown that patients who are deficient in B12 experience reduced tinnitus symptoms by taking a B12 supplement, but no difference has been recorded in patients without a deficiency.
Melatonin: Melatonin has various uses in the body, it helps with sleep, has antioxidant qualities, and protects against free radicals and ototoxic drugs. Though melatonin cannot be used to address tinnitus directly, studies have shown that it can help with sleep problems caused by tinnitus. For now, the use of melatonin in the short term is considered safe, but there isn’t enough data to support long-term use.
Flavonoids: Flavonoids are known for reducing inflammation and the incidence of cancer. It is believed that they can help relieve tinnitus symptoms by improving circulation in the inner ear. Only one study has been conducted to test the efficacy of flavonoids, and the results showed no effect on tinnitus.
Magnesium: Our bodies have multiple uses for magnesium, and the auditory pathway is one of them. Having enough magnesium in our bodies helps keep the blood vessels relaxed, allowing enough blood to flow throughout the body, including the inner ear. Some early studies have shown that magnesium can help with ear functions, which could improve the perception of tinnitus.
These supplements are believed to enhance blood flow, reduce oxidative stress, and support nerve function in the auditory system. However, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional, preferably an audiologist, before starting any supplement regimen to address your tinnitus. They can provide personalized recommendations and guidance on the most suitable supplements or exercises to relieve tinnitus for your specific situation.
Are There Any Medical Conditions That Might Increase The Risk Of Tinnitus?
Unfortunately, there are some medical conditions and even medications that could worsen tinnitus symptoms. The most common conditions are:
- Jaw problems, like temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
- Earwax buildup
- Blood pressure when it’s too high or too low
- Bad sleep
- Thyroid issues
- Autoimmune conditions
- Structural problems with your inner ear
- Meniere’s disease
It’s also been found that certain medications have a negative effect on tinnitus, such as:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Cancer drugs
- High doses of aspirin (the higher the dose, the worse it is. Usually the symptoms go away as soon as you stop taking it.)
And then there are certain lifestyle choices that can also impact your tinnitus. Alcohol has been found to worsen tinnitus because of its effect on blood pressure, the same goes for caffeine and smoking. However, when it comes to these lifestyle choices, there is a silver lining. You have the control to stop these habits to see if it makes a difference. Who knows, it may be that replacing coffee with tea is all you need to get rid of your tinnitus for good, wouldn’t that be something? Give it a try!
A Vulnerable Target Market
Experiencing any kind of medical condition for the first time can be alarming and stressful, and that’s no different with tinnitus. Hearing sounds that nobody else can hear is disorienting and often leads to anxiety. That stress is worsened when visiting the doctor for the first time and being told nothing can be done. What next?!
It’s unknown why, but many doctors are ill-informed when it comes to tinnitus, which means that their lack of knowledge is passed on to you. And while it may be tempting to hit the internet for the answers you need, that’s where you’ll get bombarded with ads left and right for different self-proclaimed tinnitus cures – don’t buy into it!
Don’t let the panic set in. Instead, go see the one professional who will know exactly what to do, an audiologist. They are specialists in everything auditory, which means they’ll have the answers you need and ideas for a treatment that’s right for you.
Hoping For A Tinnitus Cure
At the moment, there is no cure for tinnitus. Any over-the-counter or alternative medicines offering a cure are false. And if a friend tells you they had success using a certain dietary supplement, that’s great for them, but it may not be right for you. Before trying any of those options remember your body is different and will require a different approach. Always see a doctor before trying anything new, no matter how safe it may seem.
Any dietary supplement claiming to be the answer is being dishonest. Many of those supplements have different ingredients in them that haven’t been researched with regard to their effect on tinnitus. More importantly, if a dietary supplement can show it has had a positive impact on tinnitus, remember that these benefits are standalone, they have not been tested against a placebo, which means the data is difficult to trust from the get-go. We can hope as much as we can for a cure, but we’re just not there yet.
If you’re not new to tinnitus, you may have already tried some or all of these options, have they worked for you? Did they have any unforeseen consequences? And while it may all seem discouraging, remember, there are plenty of tinnitus treatment options and strategies out there that can work, it’s just not a magic pill that makes it go away instantly.
Supplements For Tinnitus: Labeling Loopholes And Deceptive Marketing
Believe it or not, one of the biggest issues associated with over-the-counter tinnitus relief products, like dietary supplements, is the labeling. More specifically, the FDA’s regulation and labeling laws. Let’s break it down.
For starters, these supplements are not considered medication, they are classified as dietary supplements, which means they are treated as a food product, not a drug. Quite simply, this means dietary supplements are not required to go through the same approval process a pharmaceutical medication does, like aspirin. That means all the checks and balances a drug needs to go through, like testing the efficacy of a drug against a placebo through double-blind studies isn’t required, at all.
If that sounds like a loophole to you, that’s because it is one. Since food isn’t regulated in the same way as drugs are, manufacturers can make some really bold claims on their packaging without there being any real evidence to support it. As long as the packaging also states the medication has not been FDA approved, they are safe to say almost anything they want. The official language used by most of these products are, ‘These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.’ What’s worse is that these dietary supplements don’t need to prove efficacy or safety, which means taking them can be even riskier than one would think.
Another con is the fact that the disclaimer stating that the dietary supplement isn’t FDA approved is usually printed in the smallest text allowed, or buried at the end of a TV commercial, almost impossible to hear or understand. And that’s not all, there’s one more trick to be aware of!
Some companies or products may use different terms on their labeling like “FDA registered” or “FDA approved,” but that doesn’t mean it has been FDA-approved in the way a medication is. Instead, it means the product has been registered with the FDA database, and that the FDA has given approval for its sale, not for its use for treating tinnitus. It’s purposefully confusing and deceiving.
Just as troubling as labeling practices are the variety of ingredients used in these dietary supplements. According to Dr. DiSogra, there are more than 250 different kinds of ingredients used to make tinnitus relief supplements.
Dr. DiSogra shares, “There are over 80 products on the market right now coming from all different parts of the world… Some have anywhere from three or four ingredients to over 35 ingredients. And my researcher has looked at each of the individual ingredients that are in these products and only about 10% of them have any published research on them. And even then, the research is really vague.”
While you may think unresearched ingredients are a huge risk, they’re not the only one. Dosage can play a vital role here too. While ingredients can be considered safe in a certain quantity, it doesn’t mean it’s safe to take up to any amount. What’s more troubling is that companies will often hide the specific amount of an ingredient included by labeling it as a “proprietary blend.” While the ingredients may not be considered proprietary on their own, the way they are combined and used in the supplement is. Manufacturers are only legally required to show the combined dosage of all ingredients listed, not the dosage of each individual ingredient used.
Risk of drug interactions
Finally, the risk of dietary supplements interacting with other medications you’re taking is very real, especially when considering the ambiguity of dosages outlined previously. Since most tinnitus patients start taking dietary supplements without consulting their doctor first, there is a real risk that the supplement could impact how a medication continues to work.
Supplements for Tinnitus: Hidden Costs VS Efficacy
Now, some of these products are safe to use, provided you’re working with your doctor, communicating often, and you’re being monitored. With your doctor’s blessing and with periodic check-ins, you should be safe to try dietary supplements, but is it financially worth it? How much money is it worth spending on products that haven’t been scientifically proven to work?
By doing a quick Google search, you’ll find that most tinnitus-specific dietary supplements fall in the range of $20 – $50, for a single bottle that will last only a month. Most manufacturers state that it can take up to three months for effects to be seen, so the initial cost is already fairly high. But what’s worse is the fact that these exorbitant costs are only seen when the product is a proprietary blend claiming to help with tinnitus. A zinc supplement on its own is far cheaper, so what’s happening here?
Quite simply, this is capitalism at its finest, and it’s a simple formula to follow in the world of dietary supplements. A company will source a variety of ingredients, usually inexpensive ones, and combine them into their very own blend. With this proprietary blend in hand, they markup the price, bottle it up and sell it off at a huge profit. But in reality, the cost itself isn’t really the problem, it’s what you get for it that is.
It’s one thing to pay a handsome sum of money for medication that has been scientifically proven to work, it makes sense and you get a real return on your investment – improved health, a longer lifespan, and peace of mind. But paying a whole lot of money for something with no actual evidence supporting its efficacy, that’s just painful, maybe even a waste of money. Until these different dietary supplements have conclusive evidence showing it can actually help provide tinnitus relief, it’s not worth the cost, or the risk.
Celebrities with Tinnitus
Did you know that there are also celebrities with tinnitus? Some of them are very vocal about their condition and promote awareness about tinnitus.
These celebrities include Cher, Keanu Reeves, Jimmy Page, and Paul McCartney.
When it comes to managing tinnitus, some individuals explore various supplements and dietary changes that may help alleviate symptoms. However, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional or audiologist before starting any supplement regimen.
If you’re considering supplements for tinnitus, it’s always best to seek guidance from a qualified healthcare provider who can tailor recommendations to your specific needs.
Bottomline: Do Tinnitus Supplements Work?
Supplements do not work to reduce or cure tinnitus. But the good news is there are a variety of treatment options out there that have been shown to work! Better yet, research in the tinnitus field is ongoing, so be sure to check back often for any new developments. Hopefully, one day, a cure will be found and all tinnitus sufferers will finally find the relief they deserve!
Different treatment strategies that have been found to work are:
- Treat underlying health conditions: Tinnitus is almost always a symptom of another condition, so finding out what is causing the tinnitus is a great first step to take. You may find that your tinnitus is a result of hearing loss, which means hearing aids may be the answer. Some hearing aids are even made with built-in tinnitus relief.
- Noise Suppression Therapy: Some tinnitus sufferers find relief by using noise machines at home to mask the sound. In other cases, patients have found relief by using a combination of hearing aids and masking devices. The hearing aid helps to make background sounds louder, making the tinnitus less obvious, and the masking device emits a low-frequency sound that works almost like a white noise machine, making the tinnitus less noticeable.
- Lenire tinnitus treatment: One popular tinnitus treatment that has been catching the interest of the public is Lenire tinnitus treatment. Is Lenire covered by insurance? While Lenire can be an appealing option for managing tinnitus, it’s recommended to reach out to your insurance company directly to inquire about their coverage policies regarding Lenire or other tinnitus management options.
- Lifestyle changes: For some people, changing a few of their habits is all they need to find relief. Though this might not be the answer, it’s worth trying out in case it works!
- Reduce exposure to loud noises
- Avoid total silence
- Decrease salt intake
- Monitor blood pressure
- Avoid/decrease intake of alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine
- Decrease stress: meditation, taking frequent breaks, acupuncture
The important thing is that you are not alone, there are options out there. Talk to your audiologist about what options they recommend for you, and go from there. And remember, if you want to try taking supplements, consult with your doctor first.