What’s the Buzz? Treatment Strategies in Chronic Subjective Tinnitus

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Intra-tympanic anesthetics. Anesthetics, such as lidocaine, have had limited success and results have not been found to be sustained.

Alternative medical managements

Traditional Chinese herbal medications have been used for centuries and are increasingly popular in Western culture. Hilton and colleagues studied Ginkgo biloba, or maidenhair tree, a traditional Chinese herbal supplement available as an extract and as dried leaves. The main action of the extract is vasoregulatory; antiplatelet effects are also seen. Adverse effects include gastrointestinal upset and headache. In a systematic review, Hilton and colleagues concluded that Ginkgo did not reduce overall tinnitus loudness or severity; the review was limited, however, by the fact that only two studies met criteria for inclusion.28

Vitamins, lipoflavinoids, zinc, manganese, and melatonin are all supplements marketed to improve tinnitus symptoms. However, a cross-sectional study confirmed prior research that did not show any benefit from the use of these supplements.29

Cannabinoids are being studied for their proposed antiepileptic effects. There is a popular misconception of Cannabis as a singular chemical when in fact, it is a plant that contains hundreds of chemicals that each act differently on the brain. In a review, Smith and Zheng30 explain that two cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, are represented, and exert their effects, in different areas of the brain. CB1 receptors block calcium influx in presynaptic terminals, resulting in an inhibitory effect on neurotransmitter release.

CB1 receptors have been found in the dorsal cochlear nuclei, prompting research interest in how cannabinoids affect neurotransmission of unwanted sounds of tinnitus. To date, however, there are conflicting data concerning the benefit of cannabinoids and tinnitus. In fact, Smith and Zheng state that some data suggest that cannabinoids might make tinnitus worse.30

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