Tinnitus is a ringing, buzzing or hissing in the ears. It’s not a primary health condition but a symptom of one. Anything from noise-induced hearing loss to vascular diseases to hormonal changes can contribute to this phantom noise. Even impacted earwax can lead to symptoms. For some people, however, the exact cause is never found, making treatment difficult, which often leads them to try alternative remedies, whether or not there is any evidence they work. Consult your doctor before using fish oil or any other self-treatment to improve symptoms of tinnitus.
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Evidence that fish oil can improve tinnitus is anecdotal at best. No studies exist that link this dietary supplement to any improvement of ringing in the ears. Neither the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders nor the National Institutes of Health lists fish oil as a potential treatment for tinnitus. It’s use likely stems from its potential benefit in treating other conditions known to contribute to ringing in the ears.
While the cause of ringing in the ears varies from person to person, some individuals develop tinnitus as a result of chronic vascular conditions, such as high blood pressure and atherosclerosis. High blood pressure is an abnormal amount of force placed on the arterial walls as a result of blood circulation, whereas atherosclerosis is a narrowing and hardening of the blood vessels. Fish oil has shown promise in reducing blood pressure and reversing the progression of atherosclerosis, according to the National Institutes of Health. If fish oil can treat these conditions, you may see an improvement in the ringing when either is the cause of your tinnitus; otherwise, it isn’t likely of benefit.
Side effects of fish oil supplements are often minor, such as bad breath, gas, nausea, diarrhea, heartburn, bloating, rash and nosebleeds. You should also avoid taking this supplement when using a blood-thinning medication. Take precautions when using this supplement with liver disease, bleeding disorders, diabetes, high blood pressure and depression, among other conditions. Talk to your doctor before using this or any other supplement to treat a medical condition.
Rather than self-prescribing fish oil to treat tinnitus, make an appointment with an ear, nose and throat specialist. Medical professionals can examine your head, ears and neck as well as test your hearing, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and even eye movement to determine a potential cause of the ringing. Once the source is identified, your doctor can recommend the appropriate treatment.