Seunga (Jasmine) Han, PharmD Student
Tinnitus typically involves ringing, buzzing, hissing, whistling, or humming, or some combination of these noises, without external stimulation.
Depending on the person, tinnitus may be continuous, occur intermittently, or in a pulsatile pattern. While it may seem benign, tinnitus can have a huge impact on someone’s quality of life and lead to various symptoms such as frustration, annoyance, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and irritation.
So what can be done about tinnitus?
Tinnitus can be caused by a number of things, and in some cases, can occur spontaneously, without any cause. If the cause is identifiable, and if it’s possible, the first thing you can do is limit exposure to the causative stimulus. The following are some of the most common causes of tinnitus:
- Prolonged exposure to excessively loud noises
- Conditions causing hearing loss (ear infection, ear wax impaction, hearing impairment in elderly)
- Medications (aspirin, NSAIDs, some diuretics (water pills), amino glycoside antibiotics (eg. gentamicin), some anti-epileptic medications, etc)
- Trauma (head/brain injury, cancer, etc)
Are there treatments for tinnitus?
Unfortunately, as of right now, the answer is no. Once possible offending agents have been removed, the treatment options are typically focused on managing the symptoms of tinnitus to reduce the burden on the individual.
Therefore, there are limited approaches to managing tinnitus, however, the following are methods that could help mitigate tinnitus:
- Avoid loud noises
- Avoid caffeinated beverages and stimulants
- Use masking devices (eg. white noise machines)
- Try tinnitus re-training therapy
- Cochlear implants
Drugs such as alprazolam, baclofen, gabapentin, some antidepressants, and natural health products such as ginkgo biloba, vitamin A, and zinc have been studied in the management of tinnitus. However, none of these medications have been shown to be effective at reducing tinnitus itself, but may be helpful in managing symptoms (eg. anxiety) that are associated with tinnitus.
Due to the complexity of the condition, it’s important that you consult your healthcare provider before self-medicating, especially if you’re already taking medications or have other chronic health conditions.
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- DynaMed Plus