These days, there are medications to control, prevent, or cure virtually any condition that afflicts us. However, some conditions resist pharmaceutical treatment, such as tinnitus, which currently has no FDA-approved drug treatments. Why?

It’s Not for Lack of Trying . . .

mature adult man holding his ear in painThere have been numerous attempts to find good drug treatments for tinnitus. A selection of drugs that have been tested for use on tinnitus include:

  • Acamprosate (approved for treating alcoholism)
  • Caroverine (a muscle relaxant)
  • Memantine (an antidepressant that is used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease)
  • AM-101 (a drug with no current applications intended for use on tinnitus)
  • Neramexane (similar to memantine)
  • Gacyclidine (a drug with no current applications, first proposed for use on tinnitus before 2000)
  • Alprazolam (commonly known by its trade name, Xanax, an anti-anxiety medication)
  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Clonazepam (similar to Xanax and Valium)
  • Vigabatrin, tiagabine, valproic acid, gabapentin, and carbamazepine (anti-seizure medications)
  • Lidocaine (an anesthetic)
  • Potassium channel modulators (used to treat epilepsy and anxiety)
  • Timipramine and nortriptyline (tricyclic antidepressants)
  • Proxetine (an SSRI better known by its trade name, Paxil), also sertraline (Zoloft),
  • Trazodone (antidepressant)
  • Misoprostol (ulcer medication)
  • Atorvastatin (a statin better known as Lipitor)
  • Nimodipine (a high blood pressure medication)
  • Furosemide (a diuretic used to treat heart failure)
  • Scopolamine (used to treat motion sickness, nausea, and cramps)
  • Cyclandelate (opens blood vessels)
  • Sulpiride (antipsychotic)
  • Vardenafil (Levitra, an erectile dysfunction medication)

People have also evaluated several natural supplements for the treatment of tinnitus, including:

  • Ginkgo biloba
  • Melatonin
  • Zinc supplements

However, despite the numerous drugs that have been tested as tinnitus treatments, none of them have consistently fared better than placebo (sugar pill) in treating tinnitus.

Is the Mechanism Mechanical?

One conclusion to draw from the numerous drugs tried without success is that the mechanism behind tinnitus is mechanical not biochemical. That is, that tinnitus is caused by physical pressure, rather than by chemical effects in the brain. Certainly, the fact that impacted ear wax and TMJ can both cause tinnitus points to mechanical effects, but there remain nerve and brain effects that can’t completely be accounted for. Especially since many drugs can cause tinnitus (including those that have been proposed to treat it, like Xanax, Valium, carbamazepine, and more), it seems that there should be a drug treatment available.

Multiple Types of Tinnitus

Probably the main factor in our inability to discover an effective drug protocol is that there is not just one kind of tinnitus, but many. We already know that TMJ-related tinnitus seems to be separate from other types and responds well to TMJ treatment, but it’s likely that there are dozens of forms of the condition, each requiring special treatment. If we are able to find markers that distinguish the conditions, groups can be divided according to their type of tinnitus and drugs can be more effectively tested.

If you have TMJ-related tinnitus, or you suspect your tinnitus may be related to TMJ, please call (303) 691-0267 at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado in Denver today.