Clinical studies have been done which indicate that Vinpocetine is an effective treatment for reducing tinnitus and healing inner ear damage after noise trauma.
In fact, one of Europe’s most popular tinnitus remedies is a branded Vinpocetine product, Cavinton®. Anecdotal evidence across the internet also seems to support its effectiveness as a tinnitus remedy for some users.
This article will summarize the medical research to help you decide if Vinpocetine is a good treatment choice for you, as well as how to get help from your doctor, and other proactive measures you can take to manage tinnitus symptoms.
What to Do if You’re New to Tinnitus
If you have recently developed tinnitus, first – stay calm.
Tinnitus can be a very frightening condition, especially if it develops rapidly, without warning, or without a clear triggering event.
Tinnitus is very, very rarely indicative of an underlying emergency or life-threatening medical situation, and in some cases, tinnitus may be an acute symptom that goes away after a few days or weeks.
Get a Medical Diagnosis
Examination by a primary care physician will help rule out certain sources of tinnitus, such as blood pressure or medication problems.
This doctor can also, if necessary, provide a referral to an ear, nose, and throat specialist (an otolaryngologist, otologist, or neurotologist), who will examine the ears and hearing, in consultation with an audiologist.
These evaluations might involve extensive testing that can include:
- an audiogram (to measure hearing)
- a tympanogram (to measure the stiffness of the eardrum and help detect the presence of fluid in the middle ear)
- otoacoustic emissions testing (to provide information about how the hair cells of the cochlea are working)
- an auditory brainstem response test (to measure how hearing signals travel from the ear to the brain and then within parts of the brain)
- electrocochleography (to measure how sound signals move from the ear along the beginning of the hearing nerve)
- vestibular-evoked myogenic potentials (to test the functioning of the saccule and/or inferior vestibular nerve)
- blood tests
- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Neuropsychological testing is also sometimes included to screen for the presence of anxiety, depression, or obsessiveness—which are understandable and not uncommon effects when tinnitus has disrupted a person’s life.
If a specific cause of the tinnitus is identified, treatment may be available to relieve it.
For example, if TMJ dysfunction is the cause, a dentist may be able to relieve symptoms by realigning the jaw or adjusting the bite with dental work. If an infection is the cause, successful treatment of the infection may reduce or eliminate the tinnitus.
Many cases of tinnitus have no identifiable cause (idiopathic), however, and these cases are more difficult to treat.
But there are many things you can try, and good reasons to be optimistic …
Below, I will discuss Vinpocetine and other supplements and lifestyle measures which have had positive studies.
I will also outline numerous lifestyle measures which may help, and the medical and psychological treatments available.
If other people have found relief, why wouldn’t you?
Vinpocetine has long been used in Eastern Europe to treat various forms of hearing disorders. A 1986 review of eight independent studies of substances that enhance blood flow found that vinpocetine produced improvements in hearing as well as in “ringing” of the ears, or tinnitus, following trauma to the ear.
A decade later, an open-label study of vinpocetine at a dose of 20 mg a day for 10 days following trauma to the ear showed that vinpocetine supported significant improvement in hearing and a decrease in tinnitus, with the best results seen in patients who took the supplement within one week of the injury.
Vinpocetine may also have a role in preventing non-traumatic hearing loss. According to a 2003 study, pre-treatment with vinpocetine prevented hearing loss associated with the antibiotic gentamicin in 118 patients under treatment for tuberculosis.
In a 2008 study of 150 tinnitus patients suffering from chronic unilateral or bilateral tinnitus who were previously ineffectively treated by oral or intravenous nutrients or drugs, the use of vinpocetine, in conjuction with physiotherapy, came out on top.
In 2013, a Russian paper found that:
“With the use of vinpocetine, 80% of the study group showed a significant improvement of hearing and reduced severity of tympanophonia [abnormal hearing of ones own voice and respiratory sounds, usually as a result of an exposed eustachian tube] compared with the control subjects treated by the traditional method.”
These effects make biological sense, as vinpocetine’s effect on tiny intracellular structures called microtubules helps brain cells restore function after injury, and microtubules are important in the hearing cells of the inner ear as well.
Dealing With Your Tinnitus
Chances are that your specialist has given you a diagnosis of “idiopathic” (cause unknown) tinnitus. In that case, it may take some experimentation to find a satisfactory improvement.
There are Many Options Available to You
In addition to Vinpocetine, there are several things you can try, including
- lifestyle changes, masking,
- psychological techniques, drug therapies, and
- medical devices.
Start with the simplest and least invasive ideas, give them enough time to work, and be methodical.
Nutrients Which May Help Tinnitus
Nicotinamide Riboside (NR)
Significant research demonstrates the efficacy of NR in preventing noise-related hearing loss, which is often a precursor to tinnitus.
By inference—admittedly, as yet subject to definitive human trials—a two-month experiment with 250 mg of NR twice daily might be warranted to see if it relieves your ear distress.
Alpha Lipoic Acid
Alpha lipoic acid has a long track record dealing with various types of hearing loss.
For example, one study shows that even a short course of lipoic acid protects from induced hearing loss in humans.
A 2012 study found that “ALA appears to be protective for the ear from noise in humans.”
“Zinc supplements for preventing otitis media” is the title of a study finding that zinc can help prevent otitis media, an inflammation of the middle ear usually caused by infection. Otitis media affects people of all ages but is particularly common in young children.
There are around 164 million people worldwide who have long-term hearing loss caused by this condition.
“Taurine attenuates [helps] tinnitus and improves auditory discrimination by increasing inhibitory tone and decreasing noise in the auditory pathway.”
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Lifestyle Considerations for Tinnitus
Examine Your Lifestyle
Commonly, stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, and loud noises are classic instigators of tinnitus. Addressing these problems can help minimize your bouts of ear distress. If stress feels unrelenting and life-impairing, seek professional help.
Since tinnitus is a real physical malady, studies of cognitive behavioral therapy don’t show it reduces the frequency or intensity of tinnitus; rather, it helps patients to better cope with symptoms.
Consider Possible Dietary Triggers
Keeping a food diary can help to pinpoint tinnitus precipitants which may include excess sodium, MSG, alcoholic beverages, sugary foods, aged cheeses, and/or caffeine.
The overall quality of your diet matters, too. One study showed that between 84 and 92% of tinnitus patients were shown to have a metabolic disorder called hyperinsulinemia.
Exercise has been shown in some studies to reduce the likelihood of tinnitus. In older adults with hypertension, for every 60-min increase in light-intensity physical activity, they were 21% less likely to have tinnitus.
Look at Your Medications
Aspirin is notorious for causing or worsening tinnitus. Certain antibiotics can damage the tiny hair cells that line the inner ear.
And SSRI medications, commonly prescribed for the depression that accompanies tinnitus, may increase activity in the brain region thought responsible for the condition.
Could it be EMFs?
Studies suggest that long-term cellphone use may cause acoustic damage.
Many sufferers of tinnitus report that hissing or whining noises are worse when in the presence of fluorescent lights, which generate barely audible high-frequency sound waves.
It’s estimated that around 3% of the population suffers from sensitivity to ubiquitous electromagnetic fields.
Other Treatments for Tinnitus
A masking device emits sound that obscures, though does not eliminate, the tinnitus noise.
The usefulness of maskers is based on the observation that tinnitus is usually more bothersome in quiet surroundings, and that a competing sound at a constant low level, such as a ticking clock, whirring fan, ocean surf, radio static, or white noise produced by a commercially available masker, may disguise or reduce the sound of tinnitus, thus making it less noticeable.
Some tinnitus sufferers report that they sleep better when they use a masker. In some users, maskers produce residual inhibition — tinnitus suppression that lasts for a short while after the masker has been turned off.
Free Sound and Sleep Apps
With countless apps and little direction, it can be hard to figure out which sound and sleep apps might help with tinnitus and/or getting a good night’s sleep.
The image below is from Tinnitus Today magazine, and shows the top picks of apps compiled by an audiologist with tinnitus.
The list of free sound and sleep apps reflects her personal favorites, as well as apps suggested by her patients. The apps are available through Apple’s App Store and under Google Play’s App section.
Hearing aids are sometimes used as maskers. If hearing loss is involved, properly fitted hearing aids can improve hearing and may reduce tinnitus temporarily. However, tinnitus can actually worsen if the hearing aid is set at an excessively loud level.
Cochlear implants, used for persons who are profoundly deaf or severely hard-of-hearing, have been shown to suppress tinnitus in up to 92% of patients. This is likely a result of masking due to newly perceived ambient sounds or from electrical stimulation of the auditory nerve.
Other devices under development may eventually prove effective in relieving tinnitus.
For example, the recently introduced acoustics-based Neuromonics device involves working with an audiologist who matches the frequency spectrum of the perceived tinnitus sound to music that overlaps this spectrum.
This technique aims to stimulate a wide range of auditory pathways, the limbic system (a network of structures in the brain involved in memory and emotions), and the autonomic nervous system such that a person is desensitized to the tinnitus.
Assessing the true effectiveness of this device will require further scientific study, although observations from an initial stage of clinical trials indicate that the device can reduce the severity of symptoms and improve quality of life.
Prescription Medications for Tinnitus
The medications most often used in tinnitus management are psychoactive drugs that treat the behavioral issues related to tinnitus. These drugs can help relieve the stress, anxiety, and depression related to tinnitus, minimizing the psychological burden of the condition.
Because there is a circular relationship between negative emotions and tinnitus (tinnitus causes anxiety, which makes tinnitus seem worse, which causes more anxiety…) it is also possible that psychoactive drugs may make tinnitus itself less noticeable for some people.
Common Antidepressant Drugs Used for Tinnitus
- Clomipramine (Anafranil)
- Desipramine (Norpramin)
- Imipramine (Tofranil)
- Nortriptyline (Pamelor)
- Protriptyline (Vivactil)
Common Anti-Anxiety Medications
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Diazepam (Valium)
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
Psychological Treatment – Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
Chronic tinnitus can disrupt concentration, sleep patterns, and participation in social activities, leading to depression and anxiety. In addition, tinnitus tends to be more persistent and distressful if a person obsesses about it.
Consulting with a psychologist or psychiatrist can be useful when the emotional reaction to the perception of tinnitus becomes as troublesome as the tinnitus itself, and when help is needed in identifying and altering negative behaviors and thought patterns.
The goal of CBT is to change patterns of thinking or behavior that are behind people’s difficulties, and so change the way they feel.
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy
Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) is designed to help a person retrain the brain to avoid thinking about the tinnitus. It is is a treatment regimen that combines the use of traditional CBT counseling with supplemental sound masking to habituate patients to tinnitus.
It employs a combination of counseling and a non-masking sound that decreases the contrast between the sound of the tinnitus and the surrounding environment. The goal is not to eliminate the perception of the tinnitus sound itself, but to retrain a person’s conditioned negative response to it (annoyance and fear).
The counseling component aims to demystify tinnitus and help the patient reclassify perceived ringing as an emotionally-neutral signal, and constant low-level broadband sound is further used to habituate the patient to the presence of tinnitus.
In one comparison of the effectiveness of tinnitus masking and TRT as treatments:
- masking was found to provide the greatest benefit in the short term (three to six months), and
- TRT provided the greatest improvement with continued treatment over time (12–18 months)
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
MBSR is a therapy that emphasizes “mindfulness” — an acute and non-judgemental awareness of one’s physical sensations, sensory perceptions, emotional reactions and cognitive processes.
Rather than struggling (often in vain) to ignore tinnitus, MBSR teaches patients to wholly accept, embrace, and control their experience. In doing so, patients put themselves in a better position to manage their condition. It can also addresses negative feelings of anger and apathy that so often accompany tinnitus.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
Like other mindful-based approaches, ACT emphasizes the need to reduce experiential avoidance of tinnitus.
Patients are taught to fully experience thoughts, perceptions, and emotions in a direct, non-judgemental way. By fully accepting even negative thoughts and feelings, patients can find greater control over those reactions.
Tinnitus Activities Treatment (TAT)
TAT is a variation of CBT that focuses specifically on tinnitus management.
TAT follows an incremental learning-based approach to explore four impact areas of tinnitus: thoughts and emotions, hearing and communication, sleep, and concentration. The process also generally uses a low-level of supplemental sound therapy for masking purposes.
Progressive Tinnitus Management (PTM)
Developed by the U.S. Veterans Administration’s National Center for Rehabilitative Audio Research (NCRAR), PTM is an incremental approach to tinnitus treatment that involves comprehensive patient education, behavioral therapy, and when appropriate, supplemental sound therapy.
You may find the free online NCRAR Patient Workbook “How to Manage Your Tinnitus” helpful.
If you have tinnitus, you are not alone. See your GP for insight, and if necessary, get a referral to a specialist for help and support.
Being well-informed will put you in a place of power, and help you to better cope with the symptoms as you seek treatment.
Keep your optimism; there are many people who do either get relief from their tinnitus, or find it much less bothersome over time.
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