Tinnitus is a common condition characterized by hissing, whistling or ringing in the ears. A number of factors may contribute to the development of tinnitus, including ear infections, exposure to loud noise and certain medications. Drug therapies for tinnitus are lacking; treatment often includes cognitive behavioral therapy, a form of psychotherapy designed to help affected individuals cope better with their condition. Zinc and vitamin B-12 might also play a role in the treatment of tinnitus, although evidence to prove they are effective is lacking. Talk to your doctor before taking any new supplements.
Vitamin B-12 is a water-soluble vitamin that played an important role in neurological function and red blood cell formation. It might also play a role in the prevention or treatment of medical conditions, including dementia and cardiovascular disease. The results of a study of Army personnel with chronic tinnitus, published in the March 1993 issue of the "American Journal of Otolaryngology," identified a link between vitamin B-12 deficiency and auditory dysfunction. The authors also found that vitamin B-12 supplementation improved symptoms in 12 of 57 patients with tinnitus. However, a newer study, published in a 2013 issue of "B-ENT" found that vitamin B-12 did not significantly help people with tinnitus.
Zinc is an essential trace mineral that helps protect cells from damage by free radicals. It also plays a role in wound healing, blood clotting and immune function and is sometimes used to help prevent or treat numerous conditions, including herpes, colds and stomach ulcers. A review of research findings published in "Progress in Brain Research" in 2007 concludes that zinc appears to have a beneficial effect on tinnitus. However, the authors add that these benefits need to be confirmed in large clinical trials.
Sources and Administration
A variety of foods containing vitamin B-12 in varying amounts, including tuna, milk, fortified breakfast cereals, clams, liver and ham. It is also available as dietary supplement pills or capsules. Zinc is found in a number of foods, including oysters, shellfish, red meat, brewer's yeast and mushrooms. Like vitamin B-12, zinc is also available as a dietary supplement. Since zinc and vitamin B-12 are not proven remedies for tinnitus, guidance regarding a suitable dose is lacking. However, your doctor may be able to recommend an appropriate dosage.
The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements notes that vitamin B-12 has a low potential toxicity. However, it may interact with certain medicines, including the antibiotic chloramphenicol and drugs used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease. Zinc supplements might cause side effects such as stomach upset, increased sweating, dizziness and headache. It might also interact with other drugs, including blood pressure medicines, antibiotics and immunosuppressants. Get medical advice before taking vitamin B-12 or zinc supplements.
- Bupa: Tinnitus
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin B-12
- American Journal of Otolaryngology: Vitamin B-12 Deficiency in Patients With Chronic-Tinnitus and Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Zinc
- Progress in Brain Research: Zinc as a Possible Treatment for Tinnitus
- B-ENT: Vitamin B12 Levels in Patients with Tinnitus and Effectiveness of Vitamin B12 Treatment on Hearing Threshold and Tinnitus