Medical Treatment for Tinnitus
by Brad McHargue
Tinnitus is a symptom of an underlying condition characterized by an abnormal ringing or other noise in the ear. The causes are myriad and can include inner ear cell damage, excessive exposure to extremely loud noises, excessive earwax, tumors such as an acoustic neuroma, stress and a variety of medications, among others. Treatment is dependent on the underlying cause, and while tinnitus cannot be cured through medication, it can help with the symptoms.
Symptoms of tinnitus, aside from those possibly caused by the underlying condition, include a ringing, buzzing, roaring, hissing, clicking or whistling noise in the ear. It can affect one or both ears, and it is divided into two categories: subjective and objective. Subjective tinnitus is an abnormal noise in the ears that only the patient can hear, typically caused by a problem involving the inner, middle or outer ear. Objective tinnitus can be heard by your doctor during an examination and can be caused by problems with the muscles in the ear or the inner ear bone and blood vessels.
Several drugs exist that might possibly help reduce the severity of symptoms associated with tinnitus, though they cannot cure it. Before beginning any drug regimen, all possible options should be discussed with a physician.
Tricyclic antidepressants have been used for the treatment of tinnitus with a modicum of success, though they are typically relegated for cases of severe tinnitus. They can cause uncomfortable side effects such as blurred vision, dry mouth, heart problems and constipation. If you begin to experience any of these side effects, consult your physician immediately. Examples of tricyclic antidepressants include nortriptyline and amitriptyline.
Benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety medications) such as Niravam and Xanax could potentially reduce the symptoms associated with tinnitus, though the drug can become habit forming. Additional side effects include nausea and drowsiness.
Acamprosate, marketed as Campral, is a medication used to treat those suffering from alcoholism, though evidence for its effectiveness on tinnitus is needs to be explored more in depth.
Given the varied nature of tinnitus and its many causes, medical treatment is scarce. As such, most other treatments are used to alleviate the symptoms and are not medical in nature. These include counseling, noise therapy, biofeedback (a process used to measure body functions) and retraining therapy, among others. For a more comprehensive list, please see the University of California at San Francisco's page on tinnitus (see References).