Can THC Stop The Endless Ear Ringing Of Tinnitus?

Dragana Komnenov PhD September 23, 2019 16 comments

Eight percent of American suffer from tinnitus, could cannabis help stop all the ringing?

The majority of people occasionally experience a ringing, buzzing, hissing, or roaring in their ears that fades moments later. However, for some people, this is not a transient issue, and becomes a chronic debilitating condition called tinnitus. It isn’t a condition itself, rather a symptom of an underlying condition. It involves the sensation of hearing sound when no external sound is present. This phantom noise is capable of varying in pitch from a low roar to a high squeal, and can affect one or both ears. In some cases it can be so bad that it hinders a person’s ability to concentrate or hear external sound. According to reports eight percent of North Americans experience persistent or chronic tinnitus.

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What Causes Tinnitus?

The causes of tinnitus include exposure to loud noise, head and neck injuries, inner ear infections and even drug toxicities. Specific neural changes underlying this disease have not been fully understood. However, there are theories that tinnitus is a result of neural hyperactivity in the auditory brain regions, but treatment options have limitations.

Based on the studies that say the cause of tinnitus is neuronal hyperactivity in the auditory regions of the brain, molecules aimed at reducing this overwhelming neuronal activation are likely to help.

In fact, evidence suggests that tinnitus is a form of a “sensory epilepsy”. This means that the use of anti-epileptic drugs may provide answers. Since the use of the cannabinoids THC and CBD occurs in epilepsy treatment, it is conceivable that cannabis-based medicine can achieve this effect. Namely, the activation of the CB1 receptor leading to the inhibition of release of the classical neurotransmitters, such as glutamate, is inhibitory to the neurons they connect with.

Evidence in Short Supply But Cannabis Just May Help

The available literature on the topic of cannabinoids and the auditory brain regions is not plentiful. The studies that did take place underline the potential therapeutic benefit of cannabinoids in tinnitus. CB1 receptors were first identified in the auditory brain regions in 1991. Initial animal studies suggest that hyperactivity of neurons occurs after noise exposure where CB1 receptors exist in the brain. It is after this noise exposure that the animals exhibit behaviours consistent with tinnitus.

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Therefore, one possible pathophysiological mechanism in tinnitus would involve a decrease in CB1-cannabinoid mediated inhibition of postsynaptic neurons. Since theories exist that neuronal hyperactivity is the culprit. Only one study to date has looked into modulations at the CB1 receptor levels. They studied the problem in rats and observed a reduction in the number of CB1 receptors in the relevant auditory brain regions compared to the control animals.

No systematic studies exist to determine unequivocally whether cannabinoids affect tinnitus in humans. However, one case report did stand out. In the report the administration of the THC-derived medicine dronabinol led to elimination of tinnitus. It’s also very feasible that the therapeutic potential of CBD may not be great in the context of tinnitus. This is because CBD may act as an allosteric modulator of CB1 receptor. So its interactions could prevent THC from binding and activating the CB1 receptor.

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Endocannabinoids

The therapeutic goal in for those with ear ringing is to decrease neuronal activity via activation of CB1 receptor. With that in mind, it’s fair to speculate that CBD together with THC may not be a beneficial strategy. A rodent model study supports this idea. Rats with tinnitus were given THC and CBD in equal doses (1.5mg/kg each). These administrations of the compound mix did not alleviate symptoms of tinnitus, according to the research.

Taken together, the available data suggests that there is critical need for additional studies to examine the endocannabinoid status of people with tinnitus. The fact that CB1 receptors are downregulated in animal models suggests that there is a modulation at the level of the endocannabinoid system. So perhaps increasing the endocannabinoid tone with exogenous cannabinoids may have a great therapeutic benefit.

Furthermore, shedding light on the pathophysiological mechanisms of tinnitus is key in moving forward. Especially the ones involving the endocannabinoids and CB1 receptor distribution in the auditory centers of the brain. These will help determine whether THC alone may be the best treatment for tinnitus or whether other cannabinoids would provide a better therapy route.

16 comments

  1. Avatar

    Ashley Peevy

    This does not work. I have had tinnitus all my life. CBD and THC makes it worse. The noise level increases to insanity

    • Jennifer Grant

      Jennifer Grant

      Sorry to hear that. A friend of mine in stroke recovery has wicked tinnitus in her left ear. She says cannabis is the only thing that makes it stop.

    • That’s why we shouldn’t mix both. One or the other. I’ve had tinnitus for over 30 yrs on one side. It just started on the other about 1 year ago. But this one is different to the old one. It’s unbearable.

  2. Avatar

    Neo

    Worked when I was younger I noticed that I could hear better but not now. Back then people would laugh and say your just stoned little did we know.

  3. Avatar

    Mark Bowker

    It doesn’t help! I have it real bad and have since 1996. But THC does change the “Ringing” it makes it sound Golden or Bronzy, it changes the octive of the notes in my ears!

  4. Avatar

    Chris Hillier

    Nope. Doesn’t work. Doesn’t make it worse but doesn’t help at all. I wish it did.

  5. Avatar

    Selwin Donner

    It works for me THC oil.

  6. Avatar

    Peter mac

    Sorry has not worked, Both THC , Hemp full spectrum 500 mg, that was 15 drops 3 day daily , All i can say it helps to Reduce the Anxiety . I have Lost 50 % hearing, Damged has been Done, yes I `ll Hemp CBD oil over Pills,

  7. Avatar

    Janice Vincent

    Actually THC can make it worse (temporarily). It’s way too early to make the statement that THC or CBD is beneficial without more research. I heard some pretty bad stories about people trying THC and their tinnitus going out of control so be safe and don’t believe everything you read.

  8. Avatar

    John Ulbrich

    I have a high pitched tone in my ears all the time. I think that part why I like getting stoned so much is the relief from several symptoms and not just the funny head rush.

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