Can medication reduce tinnitus?

March 7, 2016 by Émilie Bédard and Lobe
Soulager accoupheneTinnitus is a common ailment affecting about 700,000 Quebecers. Although most sufferers tolerate it well and do not need any treatment, tinnitus can greatly reduce their quality of life, making medical help necessary.

Tinnitus is not a disease, but rather a symptom defined as the perception of sound when there is no external acoustic stimulation. It is a complex phenomenon with numerous root causes.

The pros of medication

Some medical issues can be linked with tinnitus and increase it, like hypertension, excess lipids in the blood (hyperlipidemia), diabetes, allergies, migraines, and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). In these cases, a pharmacological treatment may reduce the symptoms experienced by the patient (e.g., antihypertensive medication for a patient with high blood pressure).

The cons

Paradoxically, some medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, aspirin, and some diuretics can actually induce tinnitus. In these cases, it may be wise to reassess the patient’s pharmacological treatments. Important note: never stop taking your medication before talking to your physician or pharmacist.

That being said, tinnitus is not clearly linked with a disease in most patients. To this day, it has never been proven that medication could be effective in reducing the symptoms. A few classes of medications like benzodiazepines, corticosteroids, acamprosate (Campral®), and some antiarrythmics, anticonvulsants, antihistaminics, and antidepressants seem to have beneficial effects by acting indirectly on tinnitus. However, medication can also have side effects, and the data on its effectiveness is very limited. For these reasons, it is rarely used to treat tinnitus.

In sum, tinnitus is a complex phenomenon. It is very important to see an audiologist or ENT specialist, who can determine the cause and guide you in managing the condition. While medication may not be the best treatment, there are other options. Talk about it with your healthcare professional!

References:
GOLDBERG, F. and M. Guitton. “Les pages bleues : Le traitement pharmacologique des acouphènes : mythe ou réalité?”, Québec Pharmacie. December 2008.
LE MONDAY, K and P. Poirier. “Que pouvez-vous me conseiller pour soulager mon problème d’acouphène? Le Médecin du Québec, Volume 36(10). October 2001.
VANDER GHINST, Marc, Verbeurght, C. et al. “Les acouphènes : quelle prise en charge en 2013?” Rev Med Brux. 2012, pages 16–21.