The internet is swimming with supposed fixes for tinnitus. Some of these suggestions or treatment plans are legitimate remedies and management practices, but unfortunately, some rely on unsubstantiated evidence, or word of mouth rather than placebo-controlled studies. Because there are so many different “treatments” available online, it can be difficult for the average consumer or tinnitus patient to parse through the dietary supplements and proverbial snake oil, to find what is real and what isn’t, who is trustworthy and who isn’t, and where to turn for help.
What Is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a condition affecting the inner ear, wherein an individual hears phantom sounds. Phantom sounds can be described as ringing in the ears, buzzing, hissing, or roaring. Learning how to spot the reliable treatments from the scams begins with truly understanding tinnitus, and how it impacts those with the condition. Understanding exactly what tinnitus is and how tinnitus symptoms impact tinnitus patients can go a long way in spotting a scam or a questionable treatment avenue, such as a dietary supplement claiming to address ringing in the ears, or an unfounded treatment supposedly used to support ear health or support healthy hearing.
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"Treble Health helped me reduce my tinnitus by about 80%, and now I can live my life again!"
– Steve D.
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Symptoms may be heard in one or both ears or the head, without an identifiable, external sound source. Although the precise reason for tinnitus is not fully understood, there are several potential reasons for developing tinnitus, including the following:
- Hearing Loss
- Sensorineural Hearing Loss. This type of hearing loss can be caused by different issues, including noise exposure to loud sounds, age related hearing loss, inner ear disorders (including Meniere’s Disease), and damage to cochlear hair cells or auditory nerve function.
- Conductive Hearing Loss. This type of hearing loss is caused by ear infections in the different portions of the ear (otitis externa, otitis media, etc.), abnormal bone growth on the middle ear bones (on the ossicles, called Otosclerosis), and even a build up of ear wax.
- Mixed Hearing Loss. A combination of sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss is called mixed hearing loss. This can mean a buildup of ear wax and age related hearing loss, ear infection and damaged auditory nerves, and more.
- Head Injury. Head injury can lead to hearing loss, and damages to the auditory pathway. The precise reason that head injury can lead to tinnitus varies, but it is a documented cause of the condition.
- High Blood Pressure. High blood pressure can lead to a specific type of tinnitus, called pulsatile tinnitus, that occurs as a result of decreasing cardiovascular health. It has also been linked to subjective tinnitus.
- Diabetes. Diabetes can cause a breakdown in many bodily systems, including the ears, and healthy hearing can decline, including the onset of hearing loss and tinnitus, when diabetes is present or goes unchecked.
- Medications. Some medications are ototoxic, which means they have negative effects on the ear. Addressing ototoxic medications can help provide tinnitus relief, but damaged hearing is not always reversible when medication is discontinued.
Some, but not all, of the above conditions can effectively be addressed to deliver tinnitus relief. In some cases, however, a hearing aid or other type of treatment is required to truly address tinnitus symptoms. A hearing instrument specialist can more readily identify the likelihood of achieving relief from symptoms with intervention.
Can I Diagnose Myself?
While it is possible to determine whether or not you are perceiving persistent ringing in the ears or not by simply taking a few moments to pay close attention to your hearing and listening, it is difficult to determine if you are experiencing symptoms of chronic tinnitus or acute tinnitus, and it is nearly impossible to determine precisely what type of tinnitus you are displaying symptoms of without medical or audiological aid.
Chronic tinnitus symptoms are long-lasting and typically require some form of tinnitus treatment to effectively relieve symptoms. Chronic tinnitus is unlikely to be helped by dietary supplements, and may not even fully be addressed using OTC hearing aids, without the guidance or intervention of a hearing professional.
Acute tinnitus symptoms often do not require treatment for tinnitus relief, as it is frequently a short-term condition brought about by a short-term ailment like noise induced hearing loss from exposure to loud noises, concerts, etc. Acute tinnitus relief often means addressing the infection, or using appropriate ear protection, in order to get to the root of the issue and resolve it.
Seeking assistance from a hearing care professional such as an audiologist or Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor is typically the best first step to determine what type of tinnitus you have. Typically, you will be asked to give a case history by a hearing care professional, and will likely be given a hearing evaluation and a tinnitus evaluation to determine which treatment options will be most appropriate for you and your needs to effectively support ear health and provide tinnitus relief.
Can I Treat Myself?
While it is possible to use OTC hearing aids to help amplify sound, these aids are frequently not effective in providing tinnitus relief. Instead, an OTC hearing aid that is used without professional support may not aid at all, and may simply amplify sounds and fail to address the sounds of tinnitus. Because of the many different interactions between the auditory system, the central nervous system, and the limbic system, self treatment options are typically limited in their scope. Anxiety, stress levels, depressive symptoms, and more are frequently experienced by tinnitus patients, and are not usually addressed by OTC remedies marketed for tinnitus.
Hoping For A Tinnitus Cure
Many a clickbait title will have you believing that tinnitus relief is imminent, provided you use a special trick, or down a slew of dietary supplements, but tinnitus is not a disease and is not considered a curable condition. Instead, it is treatable using different types of support, in order to quiet the constant ringing in the ears and provide relief from symptoms. Though a cure is not available, there are many approved and evidence-based treatment options available to individuals displaying tinnitus symptoms. Many of the management practices below offer a natural and effective solution to the problem of tinnitus symptoms, and can help reduce the likelihood of experiencing damages to brain cell health, cognitive function, and emotional health. These treatments include:
- Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT). In this therapy, a combination of sound therapy utilizing hearing aids and counseling is used to reduce the onset of tinnitus sound, and support mental health in response to tinnitus symptom onset.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT can help tinnitus patients experience significant relief from their symptoms, by supporting their mental health and developing healthy coping mechanisms with which to combat the challenges of living with tinnitus.
- Sound Therapy. Sound therapy uses hearing aids, white noise machines, and other devices to deliver sounds that can reduce the loud noise typically experienced when tinnitus symptoms flare. Sound therapy can help provide tinnitus relief well enough to experience better concentration, deeper sleep, and better quality of life overall.
Each of these options should be provided by a licensed healthcare professional who understands tinnitus, the most common underlying medical condition or conditions associated with tinnitus, and has experience providing tinnitus management strategies. This differs significantly from OTC treatment options, which are self-provided and lack the guidance and expertise of a licensed professional trained to administer tried and true and new tinnitus treatments.
OTC remedies are not considered a medical treatment of tinnitus. The goal is to not to “cure” tinnitus, but rather to improve tinnitus symptoms and get to the root of the issue without making tinnitus worse, while also mitigating the likelihood of developing other health problems – which can only be done with the assistance of a professional.
Popular OTC Remedies For Tinnitus
Despite the recognition given by the American Tinnitus Association for hearing aids and the above-mentioned recommended treatments, there are other treatments that have flooded the market, claiming to provide the relief so often provided by a hearing aid and recognized form of therapy. The most common OTC remedies include:
According to the manufacturer, this particular dietary supplement addresses the root cause of tinnitus: reportedly, a “wire” in the brain that connects ear cells with neural networks. A damaged wire is said to be at the root of tinnitus sounds, and Quietum Plus restores the wire to restore the connection, thereby fixing poor hearing, improving blood flow, and reducing tinnitus symptoms. It is also said to prevent the formulation of ear wax, which subsequently prevents foreign invaders like bacteria and harmful chemicals.
Unfortunately, these claims are not supported by legitimate healthcare inquiries or reviews, and this is a dietary supplement that is unlikely to have any real effect on symptoms, despite the anecdotal evidence of efficacy.
According to the manufacturer, this dietary supplement contains vitamins and minerals that are said to repair damaged nerves and address other causes of tinnitus to relieve symptoms. Although the site claims that its use is supported by science, there are no verified studies that demonstrate the efficacy of the dietary supplement in reducing tinnitus symptoms. The supplement can also be pricey, requiring $50 per month to use, with at least four months recommended for “best results.”
According to Lipoflavonoid’s manufacturer, the supplement contains a blend of essential vitamins, including B vitamins, vitamin C, and other ingredients. The manufacturer claims that all of these ingredients are vital to inner ear health and function. The supplement also recommends a rather substantial dose of 6 caplets per day at first, followed by a half dose for maintenance when symptoms have abated. As stated above, there have not been any dedicated studies evaluating the efficacy of this supplement; instead, studies have shown possible support for the use of flavonoids in supporting ear health.
Arches Tinnitus Formula
The manufacturer’s claims are simple enough: the base of the formula uses ginkgo biloba, a vasodilator. Arches’ formula is said to increase blood flow to the cochlea in order to support hearing, and improve the health of the auditory pathway. Although ginkgo biloba has a history of use in anecdotal evidence for treating tinnitus over the counter, there remains a significant question of how much ginkgo biloba actually supports ear health, making the claims of the manufacturer questionable at best. The manufacturer also recommends taking 4 capsules daily for a minimum of 2-3 months, which can grow pricey if symptoms are not improved.
A Doctor’s Perspective
None of the herbal, over the counter tinnitus products are formulated with scientific evidence and long-term studies identifying the efficacy of the varied ingredients. As statements on the sites themselves can attest, none of the herbal OTC products have been evaluated by the FDA to support their claims, nor are they regulated by the FDA. Consequently, the marketing efforts are also not regulated, evaluated, or in any way verified by the FDA. What does this mean? Ultimately, it means that the claims for these products are baseless, and are not required to be substantiated by any third-party evaluations.
While this can initially seem like bad news, there are numerous evidence-based tinnitus treatment options widely available to consumers via hearing health care providers, such as audiologists. Although it may be tempting to try to take a pill or use an unregulated supplement to support the health of blood vessels, decrease inflammation, and more, in order to minimize tinnitus symptoms, there are currently no medications designed to effectively address tinnitus. Instead, tinnitus patients will be better served by working with a healthcare professional to address root causes and minimize the effects of tinnitus.