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Supplements for Tinnitus

February 27, 2023
Amy Sarow, AuD, CCC-A
Written by
Amy Sarow, AuD, CCC-A
Amy Sarow, AuD, CCC-A

Dr. Amy Sarow is a practicing clinical audiologist and serves as Audiology Lead for Soundly. Her expertise and experience span topics including tinnitus, cochlear implants, hearing aid technology, and hearing testing. She holds a doctoral degree in audiology from the University of Iowa. During her residency at Mayo Clinic, Dr. Sarow was inspired by the three-tiered, patient-centered approach, incorporating clinical work, teaching and research.

Soundly Staff
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Soundly Staff
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As an audiologist, I work with many patients who suffer from tinnitus. I see the need for support and I understand the desire for relief that can lead people to consider supplements or other solutions. Before you take that route, it's essential to take a step back and carefully review any marketing claims before purchasing. In this article, I’ll share the intel on the most common supplements for tinnitus symptoms and discuss what science has to say about them.

Supplements

In the United States, about one-third of Americans take some form of supplements. So what are these pills and powders exactly? Supplements enhance or add to a person's general nutrition profile (aka, the amount of nutrients, minerals, and vitamins in your body). In any supermarket or health food store, you’ll find various products that claim health benefits—but are they accurate? Let’s take a look.

Marketing Claims

Many advertisements for dietary supplements make bold claims about their potential benefits. Unfortunately, such claims are often not based on scientific proof and include deceptive claims. Many people purchase supplements due to the possible solutions to their health problems, as stated on the packaging. However, some of these supplements have yet to be proven or tested regarding their advertising claims. As a result, these items may create unrealistic expectations and hidden dangers that could damage one's overall health. Therefore, practicing independent critical thinking and research is best before choosing any supplement-based remedy. Scroll on, and we’ll discuss supplements, efficacy, and science-backed discoveries.

What do doctors say?

Stanford Otolaryngologists caution against using supplementation for tinnitus, as claims regarding supplementation are often inaccurate. Additionally, the American Academy of Otolaryngology does not recommend supplements for tinnitus treatment. 

However, your doctor may have specific recommendations depending on your medical situation. For example, your doctor may recommend an iron supplement if you are anemic. While this supplement is not specifically for tinnitus, it is helpful for an underlying medical condition. Patients with anemia may experience tinnitus, and a supplement for an iron deficiency, if recommended by your physician, can help to improve that condition.

Common Supplements You'll Find Online

When researching solutions online, you will likely encounter many supplements or herbs marketed as “cures” for tinnitus. Some of the most common ones include lipoflavinoids, ginkgo biloba, melatonin, and CBD. Ginkgo biloba is derived from a tree native to China and supposedly improves blood circulation and reduces inflammation. Melatonin has been touted due to its potential neuroprotective benefits. Other supplements purport to reduce inflammation or combat the mechanism responsible for tinnitus. However, are these even claims accurate? First, let’s look at some of the most common supplements individually.

Lipoflavinoids

Patients often ask about lipoflavinoids as a supplement for tinnitus. That being said, there has been little documented proof of potential benefits for tinnitus relief. One study found that a small group of 40 study participants generally did not benefit from this supplement, and some even discontinued the study due to side effects.

CBD

Nowadays, CBD is more widely available and some take this supplement to help with conditions such as anxiety. According to experts, the jury is still out on whether tinnitus sufferers benefit from CBD supplementation. In an animal study, CBD supplements worsened tinnitus in rats. While conclusions from animal studies do not always directly correlate to humans, there is currently no data to warrant a benefit for tinnitus.

Ginkgo Biloba

Another supplement often mentioned is ginkgo biloba. The thought is that ginkgo biloba reduces inflammation, which may help to reduce tinnitus perception. However, studies are mixed regarding tinnitus benefits with no strong evidence for its use. For example, four trials that included 1543 participants found mixed results, with no effect in most study participants.

What does science say about supplementation for tinnitus?

Unfortunately, there is not much scientific evidence supporting a supplement for tinnitus treatment. A study published in 2016 in the American Journal of Audiology found that several common dietary supplements—Ginkgo biloba, lipoflavonoids, magnesium, melatonin, vitamin B12, and zinc—had no effect on tinnitus for 70 percent of study participants, 10 percent reported worsening of symptoms, and 19 percent reported some improvement. Of note here, there can be a placebo effect in such studies, and reports of improvement may be more significant than in reality. Study participants most commonly have an improvement in sleep with some of these supplements. Improved sleep quality can positively affect overall well-being, which can help reduce tinnitus perception.

Additionally, a few studies suggest that ginkgo biloba may help reduce tinnitus symptoms, but more research is needed before any definitive conclusions can be made. In short, while some supplements may offer some relief in some individuals, more research is required before any definitive conclusions can be drawn regarding their safety or efficacy.

Supplements To Avoid

Melatonin is sometimes recommended as a sleep aid. While generally safe and well-tolerated for most adults, elderly patients should avoid melatonin due to increased fall risk.

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Consult with Your Physician

While some supplements may be beneficial in cases of vitamin deficiencies, it is always best to consult your physician before starting any supplements. If you currently take any medications, it is best to get clearance first to avoid any unwanted interactions that could result in the opposite of the desired outcome or even create new undesired health consequences. It's always best to err on the side of caution when it comes to your health.

Tinnitus Relief

While I don't recommend my patients try supplements for tinnitus relief, other methods and strategies can help with tinnitus. If you're struggling with bothersome tinnitus, consider some of these natural remedies for tinnitus relief. Please seek out professional support from an audiologist or other health professional. While supplements are ineffective for tinnitus relief, other proven methods can help.      

Conclusion

While some supplements may offer relief from tinnitus symptoms in specific individuals, there is still not enough scientific evidence available at this time to support their use as a primary treatment option. Therefore, it's essential to speak with your doctor before taking any kind of supplement so that they can assess whether it's safe for you and discuss any potential side effects or interactions with other medications you may be taking. Ultimately, what works best for one person may not work for another—so it's essential to do your research and talk with your doctor about which options might be best suited for your individual needs.

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