Do you hear that? No? You don’t hear that high-pitched ringing sound?
Well, I do. That’s because I suffer from tinnitus, which is the medical term for ringing in the ears. Fortunately, there are several nootropics that can help.
In this post, we’re going to take a look at some nootropics that can help with tinnitus. But first, let’s take a look at what exactly tinnitus is.
What Is Tinnitus?
As mentioned above, tinnitus is the medical term for ringing in the ears. It affects between 10-15% of adults and can be soft or loud, low or high pitched, and may be present in one or both ears. Tinnitus is especially common among adults over the age of 55. Approximately 1/3 of adults over 55 experience tinnitus.
You have a one-in-three chance of experiencing tinnitus at some point in your life. For 10-15% of people who have tinnitus, it’s severe enough to seek medical treatment. If the cause is known and it’s treatable, the ringing can often be remedied. Unfortunately, there are currently no medications that have been show to be effective at treating idiopathic (having no known origin) tinnitus.
If you go to the doctor complaining of ringing in your ears and there is no known cause, s/he may send you to see a therapist or a psychologist. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most-effective treatment for idiopathic tinnitus. This is a form of “talk therapy” which involves identifying and changing unwanted thoughts and behaviors. Though CBT won’t eliminate the ringing in your ears, it can help you to reduce the amount of distress it causes you.
There are a number of things that can cause tinnitus. The most common cause is noise-induced hearing loss. This is the result of long-term exposure to loud sound and though it affects both men and women, it is more common in men. Another common cause of tinnitus is drugs. More than 260 medications list tinnitus as a side effect. Other causes of tinnitus may include vitamin deficiencies, vasculitis, psychiatric disorders, metabolic disorders, benzodiazepine withdrawal, neurological disorders, sensorineural hearing loss, and a variety of other ear problems.
Doctors rate the severity of tinnitus by using a 5-point scale. The five points are slight, mild, moderate, severe, and catastrophic. As you might imagine, constant ringing in your ears can lead to anxiety, depression, and sleep problems. In rare cases of catastrophic tinnitus, it has even led to suicide.
Fortunately, even though there currently aren’t any FDA-approved medications for tinnitus, there are several nootropics that may help. People from around the world have reported varying levels of success, ranging from mild improvement to a complete cure of their tinnitus. If you suffer from ringing in your ears, you may want to consider trying one or more of the nootropics listed below.
Nootropics For Tinnitus
1. Ginkgo Biloba
This is a common nootropic that has a lot of science to support its safety and effectiveness. In fact, ginkgo biloba is the most-commonly-used herb for boosting brain power around the world today. It’s also one that has been the subject of a lot of research when it comes to treating tinnitus.
A 2011 meta-analysis (a scientific article that combines the results of several studies into one) found that a standardized ginkgo biloba extract known as EGb 761 was effective at treating tinnitus. This meta-analysis looked at eight different studies and concluded that EGb 761 showed superiority over placebo.
Another meta-analysis from 2013 reported less-promising results. Though it found that ginkgo helped people with vascular tinnitus, this meta-analysis did not find ginkgo to be helpful for people with idiopathic tinnitus. However, the ginkgo biloba being used in the studies this meta-analysis looked at was not standardized like it was in the 2011 meta-analysis.
A literature review done in 2017 looked all all the previously-published research done on ginkgo biloba and tinnitus. This review found conflicting evidence. Some studies that it looked at showed that ginkgo significantly helped to reduce tinnitus, others found no effect. The authors of this review concluded that ginkgo may improve tinnitus but more research is necessary.
As you can see, scientists haven’t been able conclusively state that ginkgo biloba is effective at treating tinnitus. However, there are a number of reports around the internet of people using ginkgo to successfully treat their tinnitus. The only way to know if it will work for you is to give it a try yourself.
We first wrote about this substance back in 2015. Vinpocetine is a neuroprotective alkaloid that is derived from the Periwinkle plant. It’s used in the nootropics community for its memory-enhancing, neuroprotective, and inflammation-reducing effects. Vinpocetine is also used to treat tinnitus. There has been some research done to support its effectiveness.
A 2008 study compared the effectiveness of several substances with and without physiotherapy and soft laser treatments for tinnitus. The results showed that people in the group receiving vinpocetine and physiotherapy showed the most improvement.
A paper published in 1986 compared the results of eight independent studies done on patients with acute acoustic trauma. Participants were given one of several different substances (one of which was vinpocetine) or placebo. All participants in groups given active substances (including the vinpocetine group) showed a superior reduction in tinnitus than in the placebo group.
Lastly, a study published in 1997 compared the effectiveness of vinpocetine and another substance, nicergoline, in the treatment of acoustic trauma. Some participants started treatment in the first week after the trauma occurred, some in the second, and some in the third. Participants in both groups showed improvement and the earlier the treatment was started, the better the results. However, participants receiving nicergoline showed a greater reduction in tinnitus than those being given vinpocetine.
This is the substance that started it all. Piracetam was first created over 50 years ago and inspired the invention of the word “nootropic” to describe its effects. It is one of the most-commonly-used nootropics and has decades of science to support both its safety and effectiveness. Piracetam has also helped a lot of people to decrease or eliminate their tinnitus.
A study published online in 2017 compared piracetam and carbamazepine in the treatment of idiopathic tinnitus. The participants in the carbamazepine group did not show any improvement, while the participants in the piracetam group did. The authors of this study concluded that piracetam is an effective treatment for tinnitus.
Another study from 1995 compared piracetam to another substance, naftidrofuryl, in the treatment of acute tinnitus and sudden deafness. The results showed that piracetam was superior to naftidrofuryl in improving both symptoms. The authors of the study conclude that piracetam is of particular interest in the treatment of acute tinnitus.
You probably already know all about this substance. Melatonin is a naturally-produced hormone that regulates the body’s sleep-wake cycle. It’s also a popular supplement used to improve sleep. This hormone not only plays a role in the sleep-wake cycle, it also interacts with the immune system and is a potent antioxidant. Melatonin has also been studied as a possible treatment for tinnitus. So far, the results have been very promising.
A 2011 study compared melatonin to a placebo in the treatment of chronic tinnitus. The results showed that melatonin was responsible for a significant decrease in tinnitus intensity and also improved the participants’ quality of sleep. It also found that treatment with melatonin was more effective in men, participants without a history of depression, participants with more severe tinnitus, and participants with a history of noise exposure.
A literature review published in 2014 looked at over fifty different studies done on melatonin and tinnitus. The authors of this review conclude that given melatonin’s safety and effectiveness, it is an excellent option for treating tinnitus.
5. Others Worth Mentioning
If the nootropics above don’t work, there are a few other substances worth mentioning that may reduce the severity of tinnitus. They don’t have nearly as much scientific evidence or as many anecdotal reports, but they are all safe and may be effective.
5A. CoQ10 – Short for Coenzyme Q10, this is a molecule that plays an important role in energy production in the body. A 2007 study showed that CoQ10 could reduce the severity of tinnitus in participants who’s CoQ10 levels were low.
5B. Zinc – This is an essential trace element that has a variety of roles in the human body. A paper published in 2007 looked at five studies done on zinc and tinnitus. Four of the five studies showed that zinc was able to reduce the severity of tinnitus.
5C. Vitamin B12 – Also known as cobalamin, this is a vitamin involved in the metabolism of every cell of the human body. A 2016 study showed that vitamin B12 was able to significantly reduce tinnitus in participants who were deficient in this crucial vitamin.
As someone who suffers from tinnitus in both ears, I know how difficult it can be to deal with. Fortunately, there are a number of safe and potentially-effective substances that can treat this annoying condition. Although the FDA has yet to approve any official tinnitus treatments, the substances mentioned above have all proved successful in reducing tinnitus for at least some sufferers.