Tinnitus affects around 50 million Americans; that means roughly one in five Portland residents experiences at least an occasional ringing in the ears. There is no cure for tinnitus; treatment is based on coping strategies designed to mask the bothersome noise. New research shows that CBD might help patients find relief.
The effects of tinnitus vary greatly from person to person. For some it’s an occasional nuisance, while others experience symptoms so severe, they impact many aspects of daily life. Side effects include stress, anxiety, concentration difficulties, memory problems, loss of sleep and more. Studies show that tinnitus sufferers have higher rates of suicide, a fact that underscores just how difficult it can be to live with a constant noise in the ears.
A new study focuses on cannabidiol (CBD) as a possible solution for tinnitus sufferers. Cannabis is gaining widespread acceptance across the U.S., with a majority of states legalizing either medical or recreational marijuana use. The many purported health benefits of CBD appear to outweigh the negatives; CBD is non-psychoactive and doesn’t produce a high, facts that have led the FDA to approve its use in the treatment of refractory epilepsy.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is also believed to have medicinal properties that could help people with certain serious health disorders, though adverse side effects ranging from disorientation and somnolence to concentration and memory problems have many wary of its medicinal use.
The study, led by Dr. Dennis Colucci of Laguna Hills, California, was published in the August 2019 issue of The Hearing Journal. Dr. Colucci found that CBD provided benefit to tinnitus sufferers in a roundabout way—it didn’t make tinnitus symptoms magically disappear, but was effective in reducing the cycle of anxiety and stress that plagues many patients. The worry over adjusting to a life with tinnitus and ignoring the symptoms can actually make them worse.
“Patients with severe or debilitating tinnitus are often so anxious it can actually turn into a psychopathology,” Dr. Colucci explains. “‘How do I get rid of it? How do I stop it? Will it get worse? What do I do?’ These worries are often accompanied by insomnia and an inability to concentrate, which can result in severe depression.”
Most current tinnitus treatments center around cognitive behavioral therapy, masking techniques or relaxation exercises. Medications can help patients deal with anxiety and insomnia, but these often come with a price; many are ineffective, lead to addiction or have other negative side effects.
CBD, by contrast, provides a safer alternative and has been shown to help patients relax, leading to a reduction in stress and anxiety. In conjunction with counseling, CBD has the potential to offer an effective solution to many people suffering from tinnitus. In some cases, the benefits of CBD are felt even after treatment is discontinued.
Dr. Colucci is quick to note that significant studies are still required to fully measure the effects, efficacy and safety of cannabis before it is green-lit as a treatment option for tinnitus, including additional investigation into the benefits of cannabis in the treatment of tinnitus and hyperacusis with comorbid sleep deprivation.
It’s important to remember that there are still many uncertainties regarding cannabis use and scant evidence on its effectiveness as a treatment for hearing disorders such as tinnitus—a fact that Dr. Colucci is quick to acknowledge. But he points to key studies, such as a 2018 article in
Neuropsychopharmacology Reviews on PTSD and the 2018 WHO Critical Review Report on CBD, believing that these and other reports offer great promise. “With additional research,” he says, “The ability to reduce the effects of neurological and autoimmune disorders using cannabinoids could be just around the corner.”
For now, given the varying state and federal regulations governing CBD use, it’s best to stick to traditional management solutions. If you are experiencing tinnitus and looking for relief, contact an audiologist in Portland.