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
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 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
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.
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
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.
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.10
Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by some in the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.
For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.
3 StarsReliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 StarsContradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 StarFor an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
Take under medical supervision: 3 mg dailly at bedtime
Caution: Melatonin is a potent hormone and its long-term safety is not established. Melatonin should only be taken with medical supervision.
Melatonin is a natural hormone that regulates the human biological clock. The body produces less melatonin with advancing age, which may explain why elderly people often have difficulty sleeping11 and why melatonin supplements improve sleep in the elderly.12
Middle-aged adults (average age, 54 years) with insomnia also have lower melatonin levels, compared with people of the same age without insomnia.13 However, there is not much research on the use of melatonin for sleep problems in middle-aged people.
Double-blind trials have shown that melatonin facilitates sleep in young adults without insomnia,14 but not in young people who suffer from insomnia.15However, one trial found that children with sleep disturbances stemming from school phobia had improved sleep after taking 1 mg of melatonin per night for one week, then 5 mg per night for one week, then 10 mg per night for a third week.16
The results of one double-blind trial also indicate that a controlled release melatonin supplement providing 2 mg per day improves sleep quality in people with schizophrenia.17
Normally, the body makes melatonin for several hours per night—an effect best duplicated with controlled-release supplements. Trials using timed-release melatonin for insomnia have reported good results.18 Many doctors suggest taking 0.5 to 3 mg of melatonin one and a half to two hours before bedtime. However, because melatonin is a potent hormone, the long-term effects of which are unknown, it should be taken only with the supervision of a doctor.
Take under medical supervision: 90 mg daily (with 2 or 3 mg per day of copper to prevent depletion)
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).19 Such large amounts of zinc should be monitored by a doctor. Two controlled clinical trials20, 21 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.22 A doctor can measure blood levels of zinc.
Refer to label instructions
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.23
Refer to label instructions
Ginkgo biloba has been used to treat tinnitus, with mixed results.24 The largest placebo-controlled trial to date failed to find any effect of 150 mg per day of ginkgo extract in people with tinnitus.25 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.26, 27 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.28
532 mg per day
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.29 Double-blind trials are needed to confirm the results of this study.
Refer to label instructions
Lesser periwinkle(Vinca minor) contains a compound known as vincamine. Extracts containing vincamine have been used in Germany to help decrease tinnitus.30 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.31 Because these extracts are not widely available outside of Germany, consult with a doctor knowledgeable in botanical medicine about obtaining them.
Refer to label instructions
People exposed to loud noise on the job who develop tinnitus are commonly deficient in Vitamin B12.32 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.
Find Drug Interaction Information
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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].
10. Spencer JT Jr. Hyperlipoproteinemia, hyperinsulinism, and Meniere’s disease. South Med J 1981;74:1194–7.
11. Haimov I, Laudon M, Zisapel N, et al. Sleep disorders and melatonin rhythms in elderly people. BMJ 1994;309:167.
12. Singer C, McArthur A, Hughes R, et al. Melatonin and sleep in the elderly. J Am Geriatr Soc 1996;44:51 [abstr #A1].
13. Attenburrow MEJ, Dowling BA, Sharpley AL, Cowen PJ. Case-control study of evening melatonin concentration in primary insomnia. BMJ 1996;312:1263–4.
14. Zhdanova IV, Wurtman RJ, Lynch HJ, et al. Sleep-inducing effects of low doses of melatonin ingested in the evening. Clin Pharmacol Ther 1995;57:552–8.
15. James SP, Sack DA, Rosenthal NE, Mendelson WB. Melatonin administration in insomnia. Neuropsychopharmacology 1989;3:19–23.
16. Tomoda A, Miike T, Iwatani N, et al. Effect of long-term melatonin administration on school-phobic children and adolescents with sleep disturbances. Curr Ther Res 1999;60:607–12.
17. Shamir E, Laudon M, Barak Y, et al. Melatonin improves sleep quality of patients with chronic schizophrenia. J Clin Psychiatry 2000;61:373–7.
18. Garfinkel D, Laudon M, Nof D, Zisapel N. Improvement of sleep quality in elderly people by controlled-release melatonin. Lancet 1995;346:541–4.
19. Shambaugh GE. Zinc and presbycusis. Am J Otol 1985;6:116–7.
20. Paaske PB, Pedersen CB, Kjems G, Sam IL. Zinc in the management of tinnitus. Placebo-controlled trial. Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol 1991;100:647–9.
21. Paaske PB, Kjems G, Pedersen CB, Sam ILK. Zinc in the management of tinnitus. Placebo-controlled trial. Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol 1991;100:647–9.
22. Ochi K, Ohashi T, Kinoshita H, et al. The serum zinc level in patients with tinnitus and the effect of zinc treatment. Nippon Jibiinkoka Gakkai Kaiho 1997;100:915–9 [in Japanese].
23. Khan M, Gross J, Haupt H, et al. A pilot clinical trial of the effects of coenzyme Q10 on chronic tinnitus aurium. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 2007;136:72–7.
24. Ernst E, Stevinson C. Ginkgo biloba for tinnitus: a review. Clin Otolaryngol 1999;24:164–7.
25. Drew S, Davies E. Effectiveness of Ginkgo biloba in treating tinnitus: double blind, placebo-controlled trial. BMJ 2001;322:1–6.
26. Meyer B. A multicenter randomized double-blind study of Ginkgo biloba extract versus placebo in the treatment of tinnitus. In Rokan (Ginkgo biloba): Recent Results in Pharmacology and Clinic, ed. EW Funfgeld. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1988, 245–50.
27. Morgenstern C, Biermann E. Ginkgo biloba special extract EGb 761 in the treatment of tinnitus aurium: Results of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Fortschr Med 1997;115:7–11.
28. Holgers K, Axelsson A, Pringle I. Ginkgo biloba extract from the treatment of tinnitus. Audiol 1994;33:85–92.
29. Cevette MJ, Barrs DM, Patel A, et al. Phase 2 study examining magnesium-dependent tinnitus. Int Tinnitus J 2011;16:168–73.
30. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum and Beaconsfield, UK: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd, 1988, 181.
31. Ribarti O, Zelen B, Kollar B. Ethyl apovincaminate in the treatment of sensorineural impairment of hearing. Arzneimittelforschung 1976;26:1977–80.
32. Shemesh Z, Attias J, Ornan M, et al. Vitamin B12 deficiency in patients with chronic tinnitus and noise-induced hearing loss. Am J Otolaryngol 1993;14:94–9.
The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2014.
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