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Man suffering from tinnitus

Ginkgo biloba for tinnitus: does it work?

While no drugs exist that can successfully treat this non-serious but troublesome hearing problem, some studies suggest that ginkgo biloba is effective against tinnitus. Are they right?

Tinnitus: a non-serious hearing disorder

Tinnitus is a non-serious hearing disorder which affects 10%-15% of the world’s population, more commonly men. (1-2).

Tinnitus sufferers experience whistling, buzzing, squeaking, hissing, or some other intrusive noise, but one not caused by an external sound. This is known as subjective tinnitus.

There is another, much rarer, form called objective tinnitus, in which sufferers perceive the sound of blood flowing in arteries close to the ears.

Tinnitus is thus caused by abnormal neuronal activity in the auditory cortex. It is often compared to the sensation of ‘phantom limbs’ felt by amputees.

This ‘phantom sound’ is caused by a disturbance of the auditory pathways: blockage by earwax, acoustic trauma (from prolonged exposure to loud noise), age-related hearing loss, migraine, poor circulation, an inner ear problem, certain medications or Ménière’s disease.

There is currently no effective treatment for tinnitus where the benefits outweigh the side-effects.

Ginkgo biloba – an aid to hearing health

While Ginkgo biloba is today recognized as being good for cognitive function, especially in older people, it also appears to offer benefits for hearing health.

In fact Ginkgo biloba extract contains a high level of polyphenols, numerous antioxidant flavonoids (derivatives of catechins, procyanidins, etc.) as well as terpene lactones (ginkgolides A, B and C; bilobalides) with anticoagulant properties (3).

So together, the active ingredients in Ginkgo biloba thin the blood, protect blood vessel walls and increase venous tone (venotonic effect). As a result, Ginkgo biloba extract supports healthy microcirculation, associated with brain performance and reactivity, as well as hearing and visual health (4-5), by ensuring a good blood supply to these delicate organs.

The benefits of Ginkgo for tinnitus

Traditionally used for treating tinnitus, Ginkgo biloba has been the subject of numerous studies aimed at confirming its efficacy in addressing this hearing disorder.

Ginkgo biloba, tinnitus, the inner ear and microcirculation

While we don’t yet fully understand Ginkgo biloba’s mechanisms of action against tinnitus, its efficacy is likely to be due to the plant’s beneficial effects on blood microcirculation.

Its high content of flavonoids, polyphenols and in particular, terpene lactones, is thought to promote blood supply to the inner ear and protect it from oxidative stress. This means less damage, particularly age-related damage to the inner ear, thus preserving the lifespan of its cells (6-7).

However, these benefits are still the subject of discussion among the scientific community: some meta-analyzes have concluded that there is insufficient evidence of Ginkgo biloba’s efficacy in treating tinnitus, while others suggest this leaf extract from the ‘tree of a thousand shields’ is indeed an effective treatment (8-9).

For its part, however, the World Health Organization recognizes as “clinically proven” the use of ginkgo leaf extracts for the “symptomatic treatment of mild to moderate brain impairment associated with senile dementia: memory loss, concentration problems, depression, dizziness, tinnitus or headaches with no known cause other than aging”.

Ginkgo biloba and tinnitus: dose

Studies demonstrating the benefits of Ginkgo biloba for tinnitus suggest a dose of 120mg-160mg a day of an extract standardized to 24% or 25% flavonglycosides and 6% terpene lactones (such the supplement Ginkgo Biloba) for at least 6 weeks.

It’s also worth noting that certain synergistic formulations contain not only Ginkgo biloba extract, but also vitamin B3, zinc, magnesium and antioxidants, for maximum protection of the inner ear against the effects of aging (these include OptiHear and Hear Loss Formula).

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References

  1. BAGULEY, David, MCFERRAN, Don, et HALL, Deborah. Tinnitus. The Lancet, 2013, vol. 382, no 9904, p. 1600-1607.
  2. https://www.ameli.fr/loire/assure/sante/themes/acouphenes/definition-causes-consequences-acouphenes
  3. JUNG, F., MROWIETZ, C., KIESEWETTER, H., et al.Effect of Ginkgo biloba on fluidity of blood and peripheral microcirculation in volunteers. Arzneimittel-Forschung, 1990, vol. 40, no 5, p. 589-593.
  4. SI, Xia, YU, Zhiying, REN, Xiaolei, et al.Efficacy and safety of standardized Ginkgo biloba L. leaves extract as an adjuvant therapy for sudden sensorineural hearing loss: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 2022, vol. 282, p. 114587.
  5. EVANS, Jennifer R. et COCHRANE EYES AND VISION GROUP. Ginkgo biloba extract for age‐related macular degeneration. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 1996, vol. 2013, no
  6. ERNST, E. et STEVINSON, C. Ginkgo biloba for tinnitus: a review. Clinical Otolaryngology & Allied Sciences, 1999, vol. 24, no 3, p. 164-167.
  7. MAHMOUDIAN-SANI, Mohammad Reza, HASHEMZADEH-CHALESHTORI, Morteza, ASADI-SAMANI, Majid, et al.Ginkgo biloba in the treatment of tinnitus: An updated literature review. The international tinnitus journal, 2017, vol. 21, no 1, p. 58-62.
  8. HILTON, Malcolm P., ZIMMERMANN, Eleanor F., et HUNT, William T. Ginkgo biloba for tinnitus. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2013, no 3.
  9. ERNST, E. et STEVINSON, C. Ginkgo biloba for tinnitus: a review. Clinical Otolaryngology & Allied Sciences, 1999, vol. 24, no 3, p. 164-167.

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