Tinnitus: What To Do For Ringing In The Ears


Dear Pharmacist,
What can be done to relieve the discomfort of tinnitus? The crackling, buzzing, and popping in my friend’s ear drives her to distraction. She’s tried several commercially available products from the health food store, all without relief so far. What do you suggest? –L.J., Orlando, Florida

Answer: Buzzing, clanging, whooshing, musical tones, humming, ringing, even jack hammering… tinnitus can drive you absolutely bonkers. I can’t stand it even when my neighbor fires up his leaf blower, and that’s over in 20 minutes. You may recognize these celebrities who have confessed to bouts of Eric Clapton, David Letterman and Steve Martin.

The internal racket can be caused from exposure to sudden or chronic loud noises, free radical damage, age-related hearing loss, medication side effects, ear wax and a number of diseases. That’s just for starters. All I can do here is give you some more perspective about options. If your tinnitus doesn’t yield to simple remedies, see your doctor for an evaluation.

Look in your medicine cabinet. There’s a surprisingly long list of prescription and OTC drugs that have been tied to tinnitus: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), loop diuretics (like furosemide), and many antibiotics, anti-depressant drugs, and salicylates (like aspirin). Auditory-related side effects might develop all of a sudden, even if you’ve been taking the drug a long time. Discuss this possibility with your doctor and pharmacist. In cases of reversible tinnitus, sometimes switching medications brings relief.

Stress ramps up the noise! Consider biofeedback. Studies suggest that biofeedback training could help you find your internal ‘control knob’ and turn down the volume.

Deficiencies of specific nutrients can sometimes affect hearing health: Zinc, Coenzyme Q10, vitamins D and B12.  Also, magnesium, a mineral in spinach and leafy greens has been shown repeatedly to support auditory mechanisms, improve hearing loss and ease tinnitus. As we speak, the Mayo Clinic is conducting a clinical trial to verify this. And an Israeli study long ago found that military personnel with tinnitus were often short on B12.  

Asian folks seem to have good grip on this condition. Chinese medicine doctors use acupuncture and a variety of herbals to deal with tinnitus. These treatments vary considerably, but could be very effective. I keep up with Korean news because my 24-Hour Pharmacist book is published in this language. A recent study concluded that two compounds: Bojungikgitang and banhabaekchulchonmatang significantly improve tinnitus.  American health food stores are going to screech and whine if you ask them to order that stuff, so don’t even bother. A few studies support the herbal gingko biloba, which may help by improving blood flow and scavenging free radical toxins. Other herbs worth looking into include black cohosh root and vinpocetine which improve blood flow and oxygen to the brain; goldenseal could help too, and also mullein herb which addresses inflammation. Become a fan on my facebook page and interact with me about health topics: Facebook.com/SuzyCohenRPh

Did You Know?
People with pale skin (who burn easily) appear to be more likely to be deficient in vitamin D.


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