With the recent legalization of cannabis, first for medical and then for recreational use in both Missouri and Colorado, more and more individuals in the region are smoking and vaping the substance. But if you think using marijuana will help relax you and relieve tinnitus—that buzzing, clicking, ringing, white noise, and/or roaring sound that only you can hear, you could be wrong.
According to the American Tinnitus Association (ATA), tinnitus is one of the most common health conditions in the United States, affecting approximately 45 million Americans to some degree. An estimated 20 million have symptoms severe enough that they seek medical attention, and approximately 2 million cannot function “normally” on a day-to-day basis.
For those who have bothersome tinnitus, they often can become desperate and turn to so-called cures and treatments promoted online that have not been clinically proven, including marijuana.
However, according to recent a study published in the American Journal of Otolaryngology, while some advocates have argued for cannabis as a treatment for tinnitus, the relationship between marijuana use and tinnitus has been unknown. This study evaluated the associations between marijuana use and the prevalence, severity, and rate of occurrence of tinnitus.
The researchers conducting this study performed a statistical analysis on data collected from 2,705 non-institutionalized adults aged 20-69 who underwent audiometric testing and were administered questionnaires about hearing, drug use, current health status, and medical history.
The study found the use of marijuana at least once per month for the previous 12 months was significantly associated with experiencing tinnitus during that 12-month period. Subjects who used marijuana were more likely to experience tinnitus after accounting for other variables including age, gender, audiometric hearing loss, noise exposure history, depression, anxiety, smoking, salicylate (typically aspirin) use, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and diabetes.
Ultimately, the researchers concluded that marijuana use is associated with prevalent tinnitus. However, they did not observe any dose response between marijuana use and tinnitus (i.e., using more marijuana caused more tinnitus or less).
The bottom line seems to be that marijuana use doesn’t relieve tinnitus. In fact, it may do just the opposite, as this research showed. Furthermore, there are no FDA-approved drugs to treat tinnitus. In addition, no dietary supplement has been proven to “cure” tinnitus, but these substances are often touted as “natural” cures for the problem.
How Can I Get Help?
If you suffer from troublesome tinnitus, meaning it interferes with your ability to function on a day-to-day basis, the first step in managing it is to have a diagnostic hearing evaluation. Ninety percent of tinnitus patients also have some level of hearing loss which can be detected by a test called an audiogram. The professional who can help diagnose hearing loss and tinnitus is an audiologist, a specialist in hearing and balance disorders who has earned a doctoral-level degree in audiology. An audiologist not only can evaluate your concerns regarding tinnitus, but can check for possible underlying medical conditions and can make appropriate referrals.
In addition, an audiologist can prescribe proven tinnitus management strategies, including:
- Wearing hearing aids. Most people develop tinnitus as the result of some sort of hearing loss. Wearing hearing aids can augment the reception and perception of external noise and may provide relief from the internal sound of tinnitus. Some hearing aids also have features to help mask tinnitus. The masking impact of hearing aids is particularly strong for patients who have hearing loss in the same frequency range as their tinnitus.
- Behavioral therapies, which focus on the patient’s emotional reaction to tinnitus, are among the best established and most effective management strategies for
burdensome tinnitus. These approaches have consistently been shown to reduce tinnitus-related distress, anxiety, and depression, and to improve the overall quality of life for patients. These therapies should be directed by a healthcare professional.
- Healthy lifestyle changes also may help someone with tinnitus, especially when combined with these other recommendations. These types of changes might include meditation, journaling, concentration exercises, or establishing a healthy sleep environment, diet and exercise routine.
All audiologists with Associated Audiologists can help patients with tinnitus. In unique or special cases, our tinnitus specialist, Susan Smittkamp, Au.D., Ph.D., C.C.C.-A., can provide additional support, resources and management.
*Use of marijuana for any reason is illegal in the state of Kansas. Legislation passed in November 2022 legalized the recreational use of marijuana in Missouri.
Qian ZJ, Alyono JC. An association between marijuana use and tinnitus. Am J Otolaryngol. 2020 Jan-Feb;41(1):102314. doi: 10.1016/j.amjoto.2019.102314. Epub 2019 Nov 13. PMID: 31732310; PMCID: PMC7278074.