Tinnitus—Dietary Supplements Don’t Help

Many with tinnitus turn to dietary supplements to help treat the problem. Unfortunately, there is no “magic pill” to treat the condition. Supplements have not been proven effective and in some cases, may not be safe for those taking certain prescription medications or with certain medical conditions.

If you have tinnitus, that constant chirping, buzzing, whirring or humming that only you can hear, it may be bad enough that you have a difficult time functioning on a daily basis. That’s when tinnitus becomes dangerous because often, people turn to unproven treatments.

And, if you Google tinnitus, you’ll likely find a host of dietary supplements that claim to help with the condition. Unfortunately, according to the American Tinnitus Association, there’s no magic pill to treat tinnitus.

Still, the National Institutes of Health estimates that approximately 40 percent of Americans – many of them tinnitus patients – take some form of dietary supplement. In a recent survey with 1,788 people with tinnitus, 23% of participants reported using dietary supplements for treatment. The survey confirmed the lack of efficacy of supplements to treat tinnitus.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any dietary supplements for tinnitus treatment. Although some studies have suggested benefits of supplements, the research is clear in showing that dietary supplements are ineffective for reducing the perception of tinnitus. The American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Beck Surgery Foundation’s Clinical Practice Guideline: Tinnitus Executive Summary states that clinicians should not recommend ginkgo biloba, melatonin, zinc, or other dietary supplements for treating patients with persistent bothersome tinnitus.

The most common supplements linked to tinnitus treatment have been ginkgo biloba, lipoflavonoid, vitamin B12, zinc, magnesium and melatonin. Based on information from the American Tinnitus Association’s website, below is a summary of the supplements taken most commonly for tinnitus.

Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo biloba is the most widely prescribed dietary supplement as a treatment for peripheral vascular disease (insufficient blood flow to the limbs because of damage to blood vessels) and cerebral insufficiency (not enough blood reaching the brain) that causes concentration difficulties, memory loss, dizziness, and tinnitus.

Ginkgo is also the most studied dietary supplement related to tinnitus treatment. Though several clinical trials have been performed on tinnitus patients, the results are conflicting. People with seizures (as in epilepsy) or bleeding disorders should NOT use ginkgo.


Zinc is an element present in all organs, tissues, fluids and secretions of the body and is essential for stabilizing the internal environment of the body. In the auditory pathway, zinc plays a critical role in several aspects of cochlear and neuronal function. Zinc deficiency has also been related to tinnitus.

A few studies have evaluated zinc supplements for treating patients with tinnitus. Zinc was no more effective in the treatment of tinnitus than placebo in a group of elderly patients in a randomized double-blind placebo control study. However, a subgroup of subjects with zinc deficiency might have derived some benefit, suggesting that it should only be taken under a clinician’s supervision if the individual has a zinc deficiency.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin for the body that affects neurologic and circulatory functions. Vitamin B12 deficiency might impair the vascular and nervous systems of the auditory system and has been implicated in hearing loss and tinnitus. Vitamin B12 deficiency is caused by dietary deficiencies or poor absorption.

Preliminary testing of vitamin B12 to treat tinnitus suggests that it could improve tinnitus, but more study is needed.


Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in different cells and tissues of the body, including the cochlea. Among its properties, it helps facilitate sleep, protects against damaging free radicals and ototoxic drugs, and has antioxidant effects. It has been used in the treatment of sleep disorders. A review of studies of melatonin in tinnitus treatment concluded that it could have a positive effect on sleep problems caused by tinnitus.


Flavonoids are a diverse group of phytonutrients (plant chemicals) found in almost all plant foods. Flavonoids represent a large class of compounds that appear in fruits, vegetables, herbs, cocoa, chocolate, tea, soy, red wine, and other edible plants and beverages. Flavonoids exhibit protective effects on cardiovascular and neurologic functions and are credited with reducing inflammation and incidence of cancer.

Lipoflavonoid, a compound of vitamins and flavonoids, is widely advertised on the internet and in magazines as a tinnitus treatment. Only one clinical trial has evaluated the use of Lipoflavonoid Plus® alone or in association with manganese. Neither supplement was shown to be effective in reducing tinnitus.


Magnesium is an essential element that plays a key role in many body functions, including in the auditory pathway. Research studies show decreased serum magnesium levels to be associated with tinnitus, implicating magnesium in the pathophysiology of subjective tinnitus.

Some preliminary study results demonstrated that magnesium supplements likely benefit ear functions and suggested it might have a beneficial effect on tinnitus perception, but more research is needed.

Natural Doesn’t Equal Safe

Keep in mind that dietary supplement manufacturers don’t have to prove the safety or effectiveness of their substances to the Food and Drug Administration prior to selling them. And, in some cases, these supplements can interfere with prescription medications being taken by the individual, causing a harmful reaction. That’s why it’s important to check with your healthcare professional before taking any supplements for any condition. The bottom line is that in most cases, these supplements don’t help but they can cost you hard-earned dollars that don’t bring relief.

What Does Help Tinnitus?

If you have bothersome tinnitus, help is available. Start by working with a doctoral-level audiologist or physician to determine the best course of action for you. There are many management options for tinnitus, so if you are told that you have no options for managing your tinnitus, or that you have to “learn to live with it,” then you should immediately seek a second opinion from a hearing health professional with training in tinnitus management.

Associated Audiologists features a doctoral-level audiologist with expertise in managing tinnitus. She works with each individual patient to create a tinnitus management plan customized to their specific issues and needs. Management utilizes a wide variety of sound therapy techniques and tools, such as behavioral therapy, hearing aids, and the most recent FDA-cleared management systems that are clinically proven to offer long-term relief.

For more information on tinnitus management, schedule an appointment with one of our doctoral-level audiologists.