Ear Drops For Tinnitus: Good Or Bad?

woman putting in ear drops

If you’re struggling with ringing in your ears, it’s easy to reach for any remedy to ease the symptoms. But before you grab a bottle of ear drops, make sure you educate yourself on the potential relief – and the many risks. 

First, it’s always wise to connect with your clinician before experimenting with a healthcare treatment option. This is especially true of ear drops. Drops, usually applied by a dropper directly into the ear canal, can actually do more harm than good if you’ve been diagnosed with an eardrum perforation or have had pressure-equalizing tubes placed in your ears. There are also risks associated with the use of over-the-counter or homeopathic varieties, which don’t require clearance from the FDA. If you have tinnitus and are not able to try ear drops to find relief, there are other effective methods you can turn to to treat your tinnitus. Take our short quiz to see if you are a candidate for treatment with Treble Health.

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But in some cases, ear drops may mitigate tinnitus stemming from wax build-up or underlying medical conditions, so let’s break down the chemistry. 

Understanding Ear Drops

It’s important to note that there are no prescriptions that specifically manage tinnitus. Instead, there are a range of drugs, including ear drops, that may help with root causes of tinnitus like infections, swelling, or other abnormalities. However, because your eardrum (or tympanic membrane) is impermeable to most molecules, drops aren’t actually designed to treat the inner or middle ear. 

Ear drops can be over-the-counter (OTC) or prescribed by a physician. If prescribed, most fall into a class of antibiotics approved to treat bacterial infections. These fluoroquinolone antibiotics include ciprofloxacin (cipro) and other drugs that primarily treat outer and middle ear infections. Fluocinolone acetonide oil drops can also be prescribed for outer ear eczema. Then there are drops like antipyrine and benzocaine otic drops that relieve pain from swelling in the ear.

FDA Approval

There are also homeopathic drops that are harder to evaluate because they don’t require FDA approval. This means they lack the rigor of testing or the standards applied to prescribed medications, so it’s harder to assess side effects, risks, and effectiveness. In fact, the FDA regularly reports issues with manufacturing standards and widely varying amounts of active ingredients used in many homeopathic products. The FDA, for example, has not approved use of a number of popular products for any ear condition, including Similasan Earache Relief and Ring Relief Ear Drops, which both contain a form of toxic mercury, as well as Similasan Ear Ringing Remedy Drops, which contains quinine sulfate that can be ototoxic in high doses.

While the science may be lacking, however, some tinnitus sufferers do report relief from OTC drops. Importantly, much of that relief is tied to the effectiveness of ear drops to loosen wax that accumulates in the ear canal. 

Ear Drops For Wax Build-Up

Wax build-up can reduce sound as it travels through the ear canal to the middle and inner ears, resulting in temporary tinnitus. That’s where OTC ear drops that contain carbamide peroxide (in brands like Debrox and Murine) are especially useful. Oil-based ear drops – including just a small amount of mineral oil – are effective in moistening and loosening wax so it can migrate out of the ear canal. 

Other Options 

If you are looking for ways to relieve your tinnitus, there are quite a few effective strategies you can use to treat your tinnitus. Most chronic cases of tinnitus can be effectively treated with the support of an experienced clinician. At Treble Health, we offer a treatment program that utilizes a combination of sound therapy treatment and tinnitus coaching with our clinicians, mixed with cognitive behavioral style support. Our Tinnitus Treatment Bundle includes everything you need to address your tinnitus.

As you explore options to lower the volume of tinnitus in your ears, just know that the science currently doesn’t support the use of OTC drops for tinnitus relief unless your condition is specific to wax accumulation. Even prescription ear drops – which should always be used as directed by a physician – aren’t great at addressing tinnitus except when there’s a deeper medical condition at play. Instead, you may be better served working with your clinician on other evidence-based treatment options to ease the pain. 

Treble Health offers evidence-based treatment for tinnitus – take our short quiz to find out if you’re a candidate.

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