Ginkgo Biloba plant

The Ginkgo Biloba plant.

I’m often asked about over-the-counter, OTC, treatments for tinnitus.  Tinnitus is the medical/technical term for ear or head noises.  In the US, approximately 40 million American have tinnitus.  It’s common for listeners with tinnitus to report that the volume/intensity of sound changes throughout the day and the type of noise changes as well.  Most often the initial cause for tinnitus was damage to hair cells in the inner ear/cochlea.  In a healthy ear, there are approximately 20,000 hair cells in each ear in the space about the size of a dime.  For the most part, tinnitus does not represent any major health problems.   Assuming that you don’t have a tumor or another type of ear disease, is there anything you can take OTC to decrease tinnitus?

In approximately 50% of cases that involve hearing loss and tinnitus, when the listener hears better the tinnitus is decreased.  This can be everything from surgical repair of a hearing loss to wearing hearing aids.  Improvement in tinnitus can be anything from not noticing it as much to not noticing it all.  Ginko Biloba is on OTC herbal remedy that can be used to treat tinnitus, hearing loss, high blood pressure, and impotence to name just a few.  Probably of greatest concern is that Ginko Biloba in high dosages thins blood.  Recently Dr Boetticher did a systematic review of the literature and found that Ginko Biloba may have some benefit in relieving tinnitus depending on the dosage and type of extract, EGb 761.  (Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 2011: 7 411-447)

So the short answer is “yes”, there may be some benefit.  Before treating yourself with Ginko Biloba, be sure to check with your family physician.  If you are having difficulty hearing and understanding speech, it’s a good time to have you hearing tested by an audiologist.

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