June 2022

Tackling Tinnitus with Natural Medicines: Do Any Help?

Tinnitus affects nearly 50 million Americans – about 15% of the population. It’s typically associated with other underlying conditions, such as hearing loss, and can have a significant impact on quality of life. You might be getting more questions about treatment options – it's been showing up in the news lately due to very rare, anecdotal reports of tinnitus following COVID-19 vaccination or infection. There are no FDA-approved treatments specifically for tinnitus, so many people turn to natural medicines and alternative therapies. Are any worth a try?

Ginkgo is one of the most commonly used natural medicines for this condition. Some claim that its anti-inflammatory and neurologic effects can help reduce ear ringing – and there’s actually some evidence that it can improve hearing loss when used together with corticosteroids. But when it comes to tinnitus specifically, most research shows that it isn’t effective. Given the lack of supportive evidence and regular quality concerns surrounding ginkgo products, advise patients it’s probably not worth a try.

Zinc and melatonin are also commonly used. Like ginkgo, zinc doesn’t seem to improve symptoms. Research shows that taking zinc daily for up to 16 weeks doesn’t reduce tinnitus severity or improve disability caused by tinnitus. As for melatonin, it might reduce the intensity of ringing and help with sleep quality, but research is mixed.

You might also get questions about the role of acupuncture in managing tinnitus. Evidence is conflicting, but some early research suggests that it might improve symptoms and quality of life when compared with no treatment, sham acupuncture, or traditional Chinese medicine. It also seems to reduce the intensity of ringing for some people when added to existing treatments. More research is needed on specific acupoints and optimal treatment duration, but it might be worth a shot for patients who can’t find relief elsewhere – particularly early on in symptom development.

Overall, evidence supporting any natural medicine or alternative therapy for tinnitus is limited. Patients should be encouraged to try different management strategies to help limit the impact it has on their quality of life. Sound therapy using background music, fans, or sound machines can help. Cognitive behavioral therapy might also benefit some patients. Check out the Pharmacist’s Letter Clinical Resource on Managing Tinnitus, and Natural Medicines Comparative Effectiveness Chart on Tinnitus to learn more.

The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2024 NatMed. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited. NatMed is the leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based, clinically-relevant information on natural medicine, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, diets, complementary practices, CAM modalities, exercises and medical conditions. Monograph sections include interactions with herbs, drugs, foods and labs, contraindications, depletions, dosing, toxicology, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation data, synonyms, safety and effectiveness.