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Alternative Treatments for Tinnitus

Alternative Treatments for Tinnitus

Tinnitus is a symptom characterized by the perception of annoying sounds in the ears. Tinnitus affects 10 to 15 percent of the U.S. population, according to a 2009 Mayo Clinic article. This article echoes the most common noise descriptions as ringing, whining, whistling, hissing or whooshing. No cure for tinnitus exists because both the conventional and alternative treatments depend on the root cause. Mayo Clinic notes common causes of tinnitus, but the lesser-known, more ambiguous causes include stress and depression, atherosclerosis, hypertension, insulin resistance, and medications. The use of diet, herbs or supplements to treat your condition should first be discussed with your health care practitioner.


While genetics can play a role in the development of heart disease, hypertension and diabetes, it is a well-accepted notion that diet and lifestyle contribute significantly to their onset and progression. A 2007 International Tinnitus Journal study notes that high cholesterol and lipids is common among people with noise-induced hearing loss and concluded that the combination of a low-cholesterol diet with antilipid therapy improved tinnitus intensity. A 2004 International Tinnitus Journal article found that controlling high insulin levels through diet improved tinnitus. All dietary changes should be discussed with your health care practitioner.

Vitamins and Minerals

The inner ear is a fragile and sensitive unit that converts pressure and vibrational changes from sounds in the environment into electrical impulses that travel via the optic nerve to the brain. Issues with the auditory pathway that result in chronic tinnitus have been associated with a deficiency of vitamin B12. B12 replacement therapy improved tinnitus in B12-deficient subjects examined in a 1993 American Journal of Otolaryngology study. No specific recommendations were provided for dosages, but deficient levels can be corrected through determining vitamin B12 serum status. Zinc is responsible for many reactions in the body. Low levels of zinc have been reported to correlate with low immune function and skin conditions. Zinc deficiencies have been associated with an increased tendency toward tinnitus. A 1997 Japanese article found that patients treated with 34mg to 68mg of zinc per day over the course of two weeks had significant improvements in tinnitus intensity. The use of supplements for your condition should be first discussed with your health care practitioner.


Herbs that are helpful for tinnitus include ginkgo biloba and Saint John's wort. Ginkgo is an herb known for its cardiovascular and circulatory effects. There is anecdotal and traditional use of ginkgo for tinnitus; however, studies of this herb have produced controversial effects. An Alternative Medicine Review journal monograph on ginkgo biloba by Alan Gaby, M.D., described these opposing results.

A 2002 American Tinnitus Association journal article determined that an extract of Saint John's Wort, known as hypericin, is useful in intractable tinnitus. Tinnitus that is intractable means that no other cause, including tumors, infection or drugs, is at the root of the perceived noise, and routine treatments that include alternative medicine have failed after one year of use. The article notes that intractable tinnitus is one of the most common subtypes. Hypericin was dosed in three tablets of 0.2mg over the course of one year. Saint John's Wort is known most commonly for its use in the treatment of depression. Interestingly, conventional medicine uses antidepressant drugs in their strategy to treat tinnitus. It is still unclear of how antidepressants work for tinnitus, but hypericin was suggested by its authors to work on the central nervous system. Hypericin subjectively relieved intractable tinnitus in 68 percent of the people studied. A common side effect of hypericin is photosensitivity, therefore the use of this and other herbs for your condition should be first discussed with your health care practitioner.

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