Have you ever felt a ringing in your ears or heard a quiet buzz so loud you wondered if it was just you? Well that has a name: Tinnitus. Tinnitus is common. About 50 million Americans have it to some degree, but 12 million have it so severely that they have to see a doctor before the noise drives them crazy.
Tinnitus is not a disease itself, but often a symptom of an underlying issue, which can be caused by a multitude of reasons from ear bone conditions to exposure to loud noises. Tinnitus is also often caused by anxiety, and it’s the number one war wound veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have.
There is no cure for tinnitus, however, treatments like sound and behavioral therapies, certain drugs, and experimental therapies can help reduce symptoms. Among these experimental therapies, CBD, a non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant, is currently being studied for tinnitus. However, there is no clear evidence that it does help reduce tinnitus symptoms.
- Claim: CBD can help reduce the symptoms of tinnitus.
- What the studies show: Most studies on CBD for tinnitus so far have been done on animals and have shown contradicting results. Many of these studies found that CBD exacerbates tinnitus.
- All the facts: While some who have tried it have found CBD helps with the underlying causes (the diseases of which tinnitus is a symptom), so far the scientific research points firmly against using CBD for tinnitus. Some evidence even says CBD can make tinnitus worse.
Tinnitus is that ringing in your ears that sometimes gets so loud it sounds like a whistle. The perception of ringing, buzzing or clicking in the ears. This noise is not a disease itself, but a symptom of an underlying problem. Although tinnitus can be bothersome, it usually isn’t serious.
Tinnitus can be objective or subjective. Subjective tinnitus is a noise that only you can hear, while objective tinnitus is noise your doctor can hear after performing certain tests. Objective tinnitus can be the symptom of a blood vessel issue, middle ear bone condition, muscle contractions, or circulatory system disorder. Other common causes of tinnitus are earwax blockage, ear bone changes, temporomandibular joint disorder, Meniere’s disease (an inner ear disorder caused by excess fluid), head or neck injury, acoustic neuroma, anxiety, and stress, among others.
Treating the underlying cause of tinnitus tends to improve symptoms. Other treatments include reducing or masking the noise, which makes tinnitus less noticeable.
Can CBD be used for tinnitus?
Interestingly enough, some medications can actually cause tinnitus. Medications that have been shown to cause or worsen tinnitus are some antibiotics, cancer medications, diuretics, quinine medications for malaria, certain antidepressants, and aspirin in unusually high doses.
CBD for tinnitus has sometimes shown contradicting results. The way CBD affects our bodies is by interacting with our endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system has been known to regulate physiological functions in mammals in the central and peripheral nervous systems and in peripheral organs. This system has CBD receptors, which connect to CBD to regulate cell function. This is how CBD can help mitigate all sorts of symptoms from nausea and depression to epilepsy.
The authors of one study write, “Based on theories that tinnitus is a form of sensory epilepsy… increasing evidences suggest the use of cannabinoid drugs in the treatment of tinnitus.”
However, the authors also said that some of the experimental studies done on animals showed that CBD actually made their tinnitus worse.
Despite some people already using CBD for tinnitus, so far studies have not proved that CBD can help improve tinnitus. Some studies have also found that depending on the dosage, CBD can induce tinnitus, not help subdue its symptoms.
The reason why CBD is thought to help with tinnitus is that it is a very effective treatment for epilepsy. CBD affects the brain and many tissues’ cells through the endocannabinoid system’s CB1 and CB2 receptors. Naturally, some are studying the connection that CBD could help with tinnitus too, since CB1 receptors are found in the auditory central nervous system and cerebellum.
However, a study published in the journal Acta Medica Mediterranea found that despite cannabinoids’ abilities to decrease neuronal hyperactivity in many parts of the brain, current evidence found that CBD has the potential to exacerbate tinnitus in auditory brain regions.
Another study published in the journal Frontiers in Neurology done on live rats that had acoustic trauma-induced tinnitus found that cannabinoids may promote the development of tinnitus, especially when there is pre-existing hearing damage.
The authors of the study in the journal Frontiers in Neurology also published a follow up on the subject in the journal Current Opinion in Neurology taking a strong stand. In their opinion, current available evidence does not support the use of cannabinoid drugs to alleviate tinnitus. The authors say that to date, all of the available studies suggest that CBD for tinnitus could make tinnitus worse.
Nevertheless, studies are still too few and short to make a final conclusion.
People are already using CBD for tinnitus despite its unproven effects and possibility of making the problem worse. One of these people is a man named Glenn, who started a blog about Meniere’s disease, an inner ear disorder that causes episodes of vertigo and tinnitus, after he was diagnosed four years ago due to a neck injury.
Glenn said he tried CBD for tinnitus to see if it would help since other treatments weren’t much help. Glenn said CBD does not seem to have any direct effect on either his tinnitus or Meniere’s disease symptoms. However, it helped with his anxiety and due to treating that symptom, his tinnitus and Meniere’s symptoms were reduced.
“Indirectly it’s a Godsend, because it reduces my anxiety and stress more than anything else I’ve ever tried by far,” wrote Glenn on his blog. “And when my stress and anxiety levels go down, my tinnitus is so much quieter, and my Meniere’s symptoms improve.”
So far, early scientific evidence says CBD is not an effective treatment for tinnitus. However, the research is not yet conclusive and more studies are being done. While some people may be successfully using CBD to address other issues which can cause tinnitus, that seems a risky approach. Especially because many studies indicate CBD could make tinnitus worse.
People are already using CBD for tinnitus and for many other diseases at their own risk. Some people found that using CBD for an underlying cause of tinnitus helped reduce tinnitus symptoms. CBD has been proven effective for epilepsy and nerve pain, and for this reason it is being researched as a possible treatment for tinnitus.
However, many early studies have indicated that CBD may exacerbate the symptoms of tinnitus. For this reason, we strongly discourage the use of CBD for tinnitus until more scientific studies have been done.