Ringing in your ears can be caused by hearing loss, trauma, earwax blocking the ear canal, medications, ear infections or some medical disorders, such as Meniere’s disease. According to the American Tinnitus Association, about one in five Americans experience ringing, roaring or hissing noises that seem to originate inside your ears, a condition called tinnitus. While no cure has yet been found for tinnitus, treatments, including some supplements, may help you manage your symptoms.
B Vitamins & Tinnitus
Most of the evidence in support of taking B vitamins to treat tinnitus is anecdotal, according to a 2009 Life Extension Health Update. Some people say they get relief using 100 to 500 milligrams daily of supplemental thiamine, also known as vitamin B-1. Talk to your health care provider before taking supplements at a dosage greater than the recommended dietary allowance, as some may have interactions with other medications.
Dr. Michael Seidman of the Tinnitus Center in Bloomfield, Michigan, suggests trying 50 milligrams of niacin twice per day initially, with an upper limit of 500 milligrams twice per day. Seidman says if the niacin doesn’t provide relief from the ringing in your ears in the first couple of months, you should stop taking it.
Vitamin B-12, Folate & Tinnitus
Vitamin B-12 and folate are often associated with anemia, as they function primarily to help you produce healthy red blood cells. Many people who are deficient in one of these B vitamins are also deficient in the other. Some good sources of vitamin B-12 are fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and other dairy products, while folate is mostly found in leafy green vegetables, legumes and citrus fruits and juices.
Few studies have addressed the effects of vitamin B-12 or folate on hearing, though hearing loss is a leading cause of tinnitus. A 1993 study by Dr. Zechariah Shemesh and others reported in the "American Journal of Otolaryngology" concluded that a deficiency of vitamin B-12 may affect hearing loss, while B-12 supplementation reduced tinnitus symptoms. As part of Harvard's Health Professionals Follow-up Study, the February 2010 issue of “Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery” reported that vitamin B-12 had no effect on hearing. That study did suggest an increase of folate may help prevent hearing loss in men over age 60.
Other Supplements for Tinnitus
Ginkgo and zinc are two other supplements that have been recommended to treat tinnitus. The seeds and an extract of the ginkgo tree leaves have long been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of ailments. Studies on its effectiveness in treating tinnitus have shown mixed results, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Zinc is a trace mineral that supports your immune system, protein production and DNA. A small study in the January 2003 issue of “Otology & Neurotology” found that more than three-fourths of people who took a zinc supplement reported a subjective improvement in their tinnitus.
Other Treatments for Tinnitus
Before attempting to treat the ringing in your ears, you and your doctor should try to identify the cause. If it’s related to a medication you’re taking, your doctor may be able to prescribe something different. If your tinnitus is caused by hearing loss or Meniere’s disease, for example, you may benefit from one of a variety of devices that mask the sound, especially at night. Anti-anxiety medications also may help. The American Tinnitus Association lists a variety of management strategies to help you deal with chronic tinnitus.
- American Tinnitus Association: About Tinnitus
- Life Extension; High Folate Intake Associated With Lower Incidence of Hearing Loss in Men; Oct 2009
- "American Journal of Otolaryngology"; Vitamin B-12 Deficiency in Patients with Chronic-Tinnitus and Noise-Induced Hearing Loss; Z. Shemesh, et al.; March 1993
- “Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery”; A Prospective Study of Vitamin Intake and the Risk of Hearing Loss in Men; Josef Shargorodsky, MD, et al; Feb 2010
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine; Gingko; July 2010
- “Otology & Neurotology”; The Role of Zinc in the Treatment of Tinnitus; Arda, H., et al; Jan 2003
- American Tinnitus Association; Treatment Information