Tinnitus is the condition where the patients hears noise such as ringing, buzzing, hissing, whistling or roaring, in the absence of an acoustic stimulus. It is usually associated with a loss of hearing. There is no easy treatment for this condition, because it is a symptom of multiple causes. It can be caused by obstruction of the ear canal, infections, inflammation, eustachian tube obstruction, otosclerosis, Miniere’s disease, toxic reactions to chemicals or pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, hypertension, arteriosclerosis, acoustic blast injury etc.  Hearing and imaging tests can differentiate between sensory and neural hearing losses, arterial obstruction and other causes.

Since several of these causative factors are related to effects on blood flow and on the transport of oxygen and glucose across nerve cell membranes, ginkgo leaf has been touted as useful, but scientific testing shows that it is ineffective, although is does seem to help with recovery from sudden hearing loss. At our clinic, I now ask patients to go in for auditory testing if they want a defined herbal treatment.  When hardening of the arteries is known to be the culprit, for example, herbs from the blood-moving group may be of benefit.

In spite of the poor track records of herb or supplement treatments for tinnitus, the similarities of tinnitus to glaucoma at the level of causation has led me to conclude that I should try the approaches I have developed for that condition to tinnitus. I will report on results when I get a chance to try this.

However, there is some preliminary evidence that acupuncture can be a useful therapy.

Research Highlights

• One examination of a small group of patients with chronic tinnitus or noise-induced hearing loss showed that 47% had a vitamin B12 deficiency.  Doctors observed some improvements in 12 patients taking B12 supplementation (Shemesh et. al., 1993).

• Japanese researchers are looking at antioxidant therapy for tinnitus

• A controlled clinical trial of patient s with persistent tinnitus compared Western medicine (WM) with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Control subjects received w prescribed oral WM (Valium, nicotinic acid, vitamin B, Lidocaine, etc.), and WM-TCM patients received the same medication along with TCM herbs. The effectiveness of the WM treatments significantly increased with concomitant TCM treatment (Yang DJ, 1989).