Doctor,
   I’ve seen some ads for drops and pills claiming to reduce or stop ringing in the ears.  Do these work?

AdobeStock 106042822Have you ever heard a sound in your ear that does not appear to be coming from any particular source? Sounds such as chirping, ringing, buzzing, squeaking, crackling or a variety of others? This sound is referred to as “tinnitus,” which is the perception of a sound with no external source. More than 50 million people in the United States experience this sensation at some point in their lives, making it one of the most common medical conditions in the country.

This auditory perception is not a psychological condition; in fact, it is present in multiple medical conditions. Frequently, tinnitus is present when a patient is experiencing some type of hearing loss. However, there are multiple types of tinnitus and different categories of hearing loss. It is prudent for a trained medical professional to appropriately test and analyze results as well as perform a proper physical examination so that the correct therapy can be applied.

Some people seek a magic pill for tinnitus. Many supplements and advertised “remedies” promise to help or even cure tinnitus. However, scientific evidence has not shown any improvement in tinnitus when patients take these products. Even the National Advertising Review Board has become involved in 2016, recommending that the company who produces the supplement known as “Lipo-Flavinoid Plus” discontinue advertising that promised to substantially reduce or eliminate tinnitus.

There is evidence, though, that shows treating certain medical conditions can decrease or eliminate tinnitus. Another therapy involves masking tinnitus with certain hearing aids or background noise which can reduce how noticeable tinnitus is. This is why speaking with a doctor who is skilled in hearing and otologic conditions is so important. Sometimes using a hearing aid is the most appropriate treatment and patients notice a reduction in tinnitus as well as improvement in their social lives. Other times, a more serious medical condition needs to be investigated and treated.

In conclusion, if you suffer from tinnitus, you should seek medical advice and have a professional perform an accurate hearing test and exam so that a cause can be investigated. This is strongly recommended instead of attempting to self-medicate with therapies that have no evidence of improving tinnitus or addressing its true cause, and may even delay proper treatment.

– Midwest Ear, Nose and Throat