Tinnitus is defined as a persistent noise in the ears which is not caused by any environmental factors or external sounds. In itself, tinnitus isn’t a condition. It’s actually the symptom of an underlying condition — hearing loss, circulatory system problems and ear injuries can all be causes of tinnitus, but sometimes it doesn’t have any discernible cause.
Tinnitus can worsen if it isn’t addressed, but it can often be improved with treatment, and medical marijuana is emerging as a possible treatment option.
Traditional Treatment Options
Traditional treatment options for tinnitus will depend greatly on the underlying condition that is causing the ringing in your ears. The primary treatment is to remedy the underlying condition that is causing the tinnitus. If there is no underlying condition that can be detected, othertreatment options might include:
- Ear wax removal — Impacted ear wax can cause or worsen the symptoms of tinnitus.
- Treating blood vessel conditions — If the tinnitus is related to an underlying blood vessel issue, treating that can reduce the symptoms.
- Medication changes — Some medications can cause tinnitus. If this is the case, changes in your medication can help to mitigate the symptoms.
- Noise suppression — White noise machines and hearing aids can be used to generate noise that cancels out the sounds caused by tinnitus. This was actually featured in the movie Baby Driver.
- Antidepressants — Some antidepressant medications can help to reduce the symptoms of tinnitus.
- Lifestyle changes — Reducing stress, eliminating caffeine and nicotine, and reducing your exposure to loud noises can help to mitigate the symptoms and to help prevent your symptoms from recurring after treatment is complete.
- Alternative medicine — Some alternative medicine treatment, such as acupuncture, gingko biloba, zinc and hypnosis have shown some positive effects in the treatment of tinnitus.
- Neuromodulation — Utilized more in Europe than in the U.S., neuromodulation via transcranial magnetic stimulation can help to reduce symptoms. It works similar to noise suppression, but instead of utilizing white noise or music to cancel out the tinnitus sounds, it utilizes specific frequencies customized to each patient’s tinnitus symptoms.
If you’re experiencing a ringing in your ears, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that at least one in five adults suffer from tinnitus in some form. If an underlying cause cannot be determined for your tinnitus, it is considered ‘primary’ tinnitus. If this is the case, some of the treatment options may not be recommended because they could have negative side effects or cause other problems.
Medical Marijuana Trials
Medical marijuana is currently being looked at as a potential treatment option for tinnitus. One theory on the cause of tinnitus is that it is actually a form of sensory epilepsy caused by hyperactivity in the brain’s cochlear nucleus. With this in mind, anti-epileptic drugs have been considered as a possible treatment for tinnitus.
A recent study also found that the cannabinoids receptors CB1 and CB2, in addition to the receptor 2-AG are expressed in the cochlear nucleus. This expression, plus cannabis’ already established use as a treatment for epilepsy and seizures, allows us to explore the idea of cannabis as a possible treatment for tinnitus.
In mice, it has been shown to have a positive effect for subjects that show behavioral evidence of experiencing tinnitus. The introduction of cannabis creates hyperactive behavior in the cochlear nucleus, which appears to reduce the symptoms of tinnitus in the subjects. The brain’s endocannabinoid system helps to control brain elasticity in both humans and mice, which can enable it to help reduce or at least mitigate the symptoms of tinnitus.
The trials currently have only been conducted on mice, but the results are promising. More research is needed to determine the best dosages for use in humans.
Medical Marijuana and Tinnitus
Tinnitus is such a fickle condition — it can be difficult to find the underlying cause of the ringing in your ears, and if an underlying cause isn’t found, the best hope for most patients is to treat the symptoms. If medical marijuana can offer some relief,
further study is definitely necessary. While tinnitus isn’t a life-threatening condition in and of itself, it can severely impact a person’s quality of life, making it difficult to sleep, work and even pay attention during conversations, depending on the severity of the symptoms. Medical marijuana may present a solution for patients who suffer from primary tinnitus when nothing else seems to help, and it may help treat symptoms in patients who do not respond to other treatment options.