If you hear a ringing sound in your ears, it may be tinnitus. Tinnitus isn’t a disorder or condition. It’s a symptom of a bigger problem like Meniere’s disease, which is usually related to the inside of your inner ear.
More than 45 million Americans live with tinnitus.
The supplement Lipo-Flavonoid has been promoted to treat this health problem. Yet there is a lack of evidence showing that it helps, and some of its ingredients could be more harmful than helpful.
Read on to learn more about Lipo-Flavonoid, and other treatments that have a better track record.
Lipo-Flavonoid is an over-the-counter supplement that contains ingredients like vitamins B-3, B-6, B-12, and C. Its main active ingredient is a proprietary blend that includes eriodictyol glycoside, which is the fancy word for a flavonoid (phytonutrient) found in lemon peels.
All of the nutrients and vitamins in the supplement Lipo-Flavonoid are believed to work together to improve the circulation inside your inner ear. Problems with blood flow are sometimes to blame for tinnitus.
How helpful is this supplement really? There isn’t lot of scientific research to tell us, but the few studies that have been done weren’t encouraging.
A small study randomly assigned 40 people with tinnitus to take either a combination of manganese and a Lipo-Flavonoid supplement, or the Lipo-Flavonoid supplement alone.
Of this small sample, two people in the latter group reported a decrease in loudness, and one noted a drop in annoyance.
But all in all, the authors couldn’t find enough evidence that Lipo-Flavonoid helps with tinnitus symptoms.
Lipo-Flavonoid contains added ingredients such as food dyes and soy that may cause side effects for certain people who are sensitive to these ingredients.
The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery doesn’t recommend Lipo-Flavonoid to treat tinnitus because of the lack of evidence that it works. Research has uncovered other treatments and supplements that have better benefits.
One main cause of tinnitus is damage to the hairs in the ear that transmit sound. Meniere’s disease is another common cause. It’s a disorder of the inner ear that usually just affects one ear.
Meniere’s disease also causes vertigo, a dizzy feeling like the room is spinning. It may lead to periodical hearing loss and a feeling of strong pressure against the inside of your ear as well.
Other causes of tinnitus include:
- exposure to loud noises
- age-related hearing loss
- earwax buildup
- injury to the ear
- temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders
- blood vessel disorders
- nerve damage
- side effects from drugs like NSAIDs, antibiotics, or antidepressants
Your doctor will check your other symptoms and your medical history to correctly diagnose the cause of your tinnitus.
If a medical condition like TMJ is causing the ringing, getting treated for the problem should reduce or stop tinnitus. For tinnitus without an obvious cause, these treatments may help:
- Earwax removal. Your doctor can remove any wax that’s blocking your ear.
- Treatment of blood vessel conditions. Narrowed blood vessels may be treatable with medicine or surgery.
- Changes to medication. Stopping the drug that’s causing your tinnitus should end the ringing.
- Sound therapy. Listening to white noise through a machine or in-ear device can help mask the ringing.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This type of therapy teaches you how to reframe any negative thoughts related to your condition.
Other supplements have been studied for treating tinnitus, with mixed results.
Gingko biloba is the most often used supplement for tinnitus. It may work by reducing ear damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals, or by increasing blood flow through the ear.
According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, some studies have found that this supplement helps with tinnitus, but others have been less encouraging. Whether it works for you may depend on the cause of your tinnitus and on the dose you take.
Before you take gingko biloba, be wary of side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and headaches. This supplement can also cause severe bleeding in people who take blood thinners or have blood-clotting disorders.
This hormone helps regulate the sleep-wake cycles. Some people take it to help them get a good night’s rest.
For tinnitus, melatonin might exert positive effects on blood vessels or nerves. Randomized-controlled studies have shown that the supplement improves tinnitus symptoms, but many of the studies were poorly designed, so it’s hard to draw any conclusions.
Melatonin may be most effective for helping people with this condition sleep more soundly.
This mineral is essential for a healthy immune system, protein production, and wound healing. Zinc might also protect structures in the ear involved in tinnitus.
A 2016 Cochrane review looked at three studies comparing zinc supplements with an inactive pill (placebo) in 209 adults with tinnitus. The authors found no evidence that zinc improves tinnitus symptoms.
However, there may be some use for the supplement in people who are deficient in zinc. By some estimates, that’s up to 69 percent of people with tinnitus.
Are supplements safe? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate dietary supplements. Whereas drugs are considered unsafe until they are proven safe, with supplements it’s the other way around.
Be cautious when it comes to taking supplements. These products can cause side effects and may interact with other drugs you take. It’s always advisable to talk to your doctor first, especially if you’re taking other medications.
Lipo-Flavonoid is marketed as a tinnitus treatment, yet there’s no real evidence that it works. And some of its ingredients could cause side effects.
A few tinnitus treatments — like earwax removal and sound therapy — have more research to support them.
If you do plan to try Lipo-Flavonoid or any other supplement, consult your doctor first to make sure it’s safe for you.