Tinnitus currently has no cure and can be extremely difficult to treat. Tinnitus is a neurological and audiological condition that affects millions of people around the world. As there is no medical cure for tinnitus, those who suffer from the condition are left to their own devices to find natural treatments that can help with their condition. Many people who suffer from tinnitus have been trying CBD to help to ease their condition.
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is defined by the feeling of ringing or a persistent noise in the ears. Symptoms include hearing sounds such as buzzing, ringing, hissing and roaring. In extreme cases, these sounds even impair the individual from being able to hear other sounds.
There is no definitive singular cause of tinnitus, but the following can contribute:
- Hearing loss
- Build-up of ear wax
- Neck injury
- Persistent loud noises
- Ear injury
- Ear infection
The most common cause of tinnitus however, is when hair cells found in the cochlea become damaged. The cochlea is a spiralised bone in our ear that converts the sounds that we hear into electric impulses, which the brain then processes as sound frequency.
Once the cochlea’s hair cells become damaged, the brain then increases neural activity in order to maintain efficient detection of neural signals. By way of example, this is akin to using more antennas to improve the signal of your radio.
This increased activity, defined as hyperactivity, causes the excess noises that takes the form of tinnitus.
That said, more recent research has tentatively drawn links between tinnitus and epilepsy. Kalappa et all suggested in their research that tinnitus could be defined as a type of ‘sensory epilepsy’ due to the hyperactivity of auditory sections in the brain.
These well-explored links between tinnitus and neural activity suggests that CBD may well have a role to play in combatting symptoms.
What is CBD?
CBD is shorthand for cannabidiol, and it is one of over 100 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. CBD can be extracted from the flowers, leaves and buds of the cannabis plants and is contained within marijuana and hemp. Hemp plants are very similar to marijuana plants, but they contain much lower levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) which is the active ingredient in marijuana that causes psychoactive effects.
CBD is distinctly different from THC, and it doesn’t cause any psychological effects.
CBD is now widely available in the UK, Europe and the USA with many brands and companies speaking highly of the medicinal benefits of CBD. The virtues that are often promoted include pain relief, anti-inflammation properties, relief from anxiety & depression and insomnia.
There are two rare forms of epilepsy that are treated with CBD via a drug named Epidiolex.
Tinnitus, CBD and The Endocannabinoid System
Realising how CBD can potentially help sufferers of tinnitus requires an understanding of the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The endocannabinoid system is a comprised of three main parts. These are endocannabinoids (cannabinoids that naturally occur in the body), cannabinoids receptors and enzymes. The role of the ECS is to promote homeostasis through the regulation of numerous bodily functions, including sleep, memory and mood.
The two main types of cannabinoid receptors are CB1 receptors, found in the brain and spinal cord and CB2 receptors which are found in immune cells. Both receptors respond to the presence of cannabinoids like THC & CBD.
Existing Research into Tinnitus and CBD
Emerging data illustrates that these receptors play a role in homeostasis and even your ability to hear. This research led to some scientists pondering whether cannabinoids could be a treatment for hearing disorders such as tinnitus. To date, there has still not been a great deal research carried out into the efficacy of CBD in treating hearing disorders, but a study that was conducted in 2015 in which lab rats were treated with CBD showed that CBD was not effective in treating hearing disorders.
We can however look at existing CBD research that may well be applicable to the symptoms of tinnitus. For example, we have known for a number of years about the anti-epileptic properties of CBD and this could well translate to tinnitus.
On top of that, it is well documented that tinnitus leads to an increased risk of depression, stress and anxiety for those who suffer from it. Thus, the myriad studies that show CBD’s effectiveness in combatting stress, depression and anxiety suggest that it has the potential to manage some of the ulterior symptoms of tinnitus.
In relation to stress and anxiety, one of the pioneering studies that was also referenced by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) highlights that CBD reduces stress in rats. The researchers detected lower behavioural and physiological signs of stress and anxiety in rats that were exposed to CBD.
CBD has also been shown to have a positive impact on depression. This is due to the link between low serotonin levels and depression. In 2019, De Gregorio et al found that CBD had a positive effect on serotonin receptors in the brain, while producing anti-depressant and anti-anxiety effects.
In terms of studies that directly examined the relationship between CBD and tinnitus, perhaps the most prominent was conducted in 2020 by Cosentino et al.
They found that cannabinoids are involved in neural processing within the auditory system. The researchers also conclude that CBD has the potential to reduce hearing loss, the perception of tinnitus and the risk factors of tinnitus. That said, they also stated the need for further human research regarding tinnitus and CBD.
One famous musician has been a long sufferer of tinnitus, Pete Townsend of the The Who has suffered with the condition for decades and has publicly spoken about the difficulty of living with the condition.
CBD vs Existing Tinnitus Treatments
The growing clamour for further research into CBD and tinnitus is instigated, in part, by the FDA’s failure to approve an effective cure, or even treatment for tinnitus.
The most common existing treatments for tinnitus are behavioural therapy and hearing aids. The majority of audiologists will recommend a combination of both of these, with behavioural therapy taking the form of stress management, tinnitus retraining therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy.
This combination has shown to help tinnitus patients as well as reducing stress, which can exacerbate symptoms. Behavioural strategies, such as those outlined above, allow patients to alter their brain’s response to tinnitus to the point that they are not bothered by the phantom sounds and in some cases do not hear them at all.
It has been suggested that the way in which CBD combats anxiety could be replicated when combatting tinnitus. The studies highlighted in the previous section outline the various ways in which CBD may help, including managing stress and anxiety.
That said, it is important to note that none of the aforementioned treatments are a cure for tinnitus. Instead, they help the patient to manage their symptoms and make daily life more manageable.
Of course, it is always important to speak to a medical professional or audiologist prior to starting CBD as a treatment for tinnitus.
What to Look Out For When Buying CBD for Tinnitus
After speaking with your doctor or audiologist regarding CBD as a treatment for tinnitus, there are a number of elements to be aware of before you buy.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) stated in their critical review of cannabidiol in 2017 that there was “there is no evidence of recreational use of CBD or any public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”
- In the United Kingdom there is a legal 0.2% limit on the amount of THC within any given CBD product. It is important to refer to the laws in your own country of residence prior to attempting a purchase.
- Always request a Certificate of Analysis (CoA). This is an independent document created by a third-party laboratory that confirms the exact ingredients of the CBD product in question – including the level of THC.
- Check the feedback for your CBD shop of choice. Product reviews and customer feedback provide a clearer picture of the quality of product than any claims from the vendor.
- Focus on organic, non-GMO products that use high quality ingredients. This can be checked on the CoA.
- Be aware of the various delivery methods. There is a dazzling array of CBD products on the market today, from 24-hour CBD patches, to CBD capsules and CBD vape juice. All of these have their own pros and cons, so it is important to conduct your own research on what best suits your needs.
Tinnitus patients can turn to CBD to try and treat their symptoms after recent studies have shown that tinnitus is a form of sensory epilepsy. However, there is still a lack of scientific evidence to support CBD as an effective method of treating tinnitus. One study even showed that CBD aggravated tinnitus opposed to helping relieve symptoms.