What Is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a continual noise or ringing in the ear. In some cases, tinnitus signals an underlying problem, such as an ear injury, loss of hearing, or blood vessel disorder.
Symptoms of Tinnitus
People with tinnitus hear noise (in one or both ears) even when they're not exposed to an external sound. These noises may include:
What Causes It?
Tinnitus is sometimes caused by exposure to loud noises. It can also occur as a side effect to certain medications (including some antibiotics, cancer drugs, and diuretics) or as the result of earwax blockage. In other cases, tinnitus results from an underlying condition, such as:
- age-related hearing loss
- low or high blood pressure
- disorders of the circulatory system
- Meniere's disease (an inner-ear disorder)
- acoustic neuroma (a noncancerous tumor on the cranial nerve)
Treatment for Tinnitus
Unless your doctor identifies and treats a specific cause of your tinnitus, it may be impossible to eliminate the noise completely. Strategies that may relieve symptoms include:
- use of noise-suppressing devices (such as white noise machines)
- earwax removal
- avoiding irritants (including loud noises and nicotine)
If tinnitus occurs suddenly and/or is accompanied by hearing loss or dizziness, consult your physician as quickly as possible.
Natural Remedies for Tinnitus
The use of alternative medicine in treatment of tinnitus has yet to be extensively studied. However, these remedies and alternative therapies may help ease tinnitus symptoms:
Biofeedback is a process that involves learning to consciously control vital functions that are normally unconscious, such as heart rate and breathing. In a 2009 study, researchers found that a combination of biofeedback and cognitive behavioral therapy could help decrease tinnitus-related distress.
Derived from vincamine (a substance found in the leaves of the lesser periwinkle plant), vinpocetine is thought to increase circulation. In a 2008 study, a combination of vinpocetine and physiotherapy was found to be effective in treatment of chronic tinnitus.
Another herb said to stimulate circulation, ginkgo biloba has yielded mixed results in treatment of tinnitus. For instance, a 2005 research review found that - while some small clinical trials have produced positive findings - ginkgo biloba may be of little more use than a placebo when it comes to tinnitus treatment.
Hahn A, Radkova L, Achiemere G, Klement V, Alpini D, Strouhal J. "Multimodal therapy for chronic tinnitus." Int Tinnitus J. 2008;14(1):69-72.
Heinecke K, Weise C, Rief W. "Psychophysiological effects of biofeedback treatment in tinnitus sufferers." Br J Clin Psychol. 2009 48(Pt 3):223-39.
Smith PF, Zheng Y, Darlington CL. "Ginkgo biloba extracts for tinnitus: More hype than hope?" J Ethnopharmacol. 2005 22;100(1-2):95-9.