Can CBD Oil Help With Tinnitus?

  • Medical research has suggested that tinnitus is a form of sensory epilepsy(1). It suggested that the use of cannabinoids, like CBD, could help provide tinnitus relief(2).
  • CBD’s well-documented anti-epileptic properties(3) could address one of the leading causes of tinnitus in patients, which is hyperactivity in the brain’s auditory areas.
  • However, one significant animal study showed that CBD administration aggravated tinnitus in the rat subjects, and exposed those with pre-existing ear damage to developing the hearing problem(4).
  • However, anxiety and stress also play a crucial role in tinnitus. Stress is known to worsen tinnitus, while tinnitus patients often feel anxious and emotionally distressed because of their hearing problem(5). Many suggest that CBD, with its anti-anxiety properties(6), may help relieve the anxiety and stress tinnitus patients experience. However, evidence to support this is still lacking.
  • Keep in mind that CBD oil is by no means a miracle cure for tinnitus. Patients should first seek the advice of a medical professional before initial administration.

Why People Are Using CBD Oil for Tinnitus

Medical research has hypothesized tinnitus to be a form of epilepsy, a neurological disorder of the electrical impulses that travel in neurons(7), prompting patients to use CBD oil as an alternative treatment due to its well-known anti-epileptic properties(8).

Many CBD users have also claimed that CBD oil was helpful in relieving symptoms of hearing disorders, such as tinnitus and hyperacusis (increased sensitivity to sound).

Despite public opinion being positive, most information supporting CBD oil as an effective treatment for tinnitus symptoms is anecdotal.

The Mayo Clinic defines tinnitus as a feeling of ringing or noise in the ears when nothing within the environment is causing these sounds to occur(9).

Tinnitus symptoms include hearing phantom sounds, such as ringing, buzzing, clicking, hissing, roaring, and even humming.

The sounds’ loudness may vary from low pitched to high pitched. However, some tinnitus sufferers have severe cases, as they lose the ability to fully-concentrate or hear other sounds.

According to The American Academy of Audiology, around 30 million people in America are affected by tinnitus(10).

However, it is not a disorder in itself and may have some underlying cause.

Common causes of tinnitus include:

  • hearing loss (due to old age)
  • ear infection 
  • ear injury
  • excessive earwax
  • constant exposure to loud noises
  • neck injuries
  • medical conditions, like circulatory system disorders, blood vessel disorders, or Meniere’s Disease (a disorder affecting the inner ear, caused by “triggers” such as stress, PTSD, and emotional distress(11))

Most people experience subjective tinnitus, a type of tinnitus where only the patient hears phantom sounds(12).

On the other hand, cases of objective tinnitus allow patients to hear existing sounds, such as heart murmurs (a sound accompanying heartbeats)(13).

Tinnitus usually occurs when hair cells in the cochlea are damaged(14).

The cochlea is a spiral-shaped bone that plays an essential role in the body’s auditory process.

In the cochlea, the sounds humans hear are transformed into electric impulses or nerve signals, which the brain interprets as sound frequencies(15).

When the hair cells in the cochlea are damaged, the brain makes an increased effort to detect the nerve signals it cannot receive by increasing neuronal activity. 

This action may be equivalent to using more antennas to get a better signal for one’s radio.

It is the brain’s way of compensating for the loss of hearing.

This hyperactivity in the auditory part of the brain leads to an excess of electrical noises that take the form of tinnitus.

Even though most cases of tinnitus are caused by hearing loss at the cochlea, new studies(16) have recently linked tinnitus to epilepsy.

New research suggested that tinnitus may be a form of sensory epilepsy(17) since tinnitus occurs when there is hyperactivity in the auditory areas of the brain.

Since tinnitus is tied to neural brain activity, researchers investigated whether the use of cannabinoids, like CBD, might be effective in lessening the symptoms of tinnitus.

Cannabinoids, like CBD, have exhibited therapeutic actions that could suppress epileptic and seizure activity in animals(18).

CBD has well-known anti-epileptic properties(19) and may prove to be an effective treatment for bringing tinnitus relief.

Epidiolex was the first approved anti-epileptic drug to contain CBD in its active ingredients(20).

However, research examining the effects of CBD on tinnitus treatment or relief is limited. Studies utilizing human subjects are yet to be conducted.

One significant 2015 research investigated whether cannabinoids, like CBD, could affect rat subjects induced with tinnitus(21).

The researchers administered a 1:1 ratio of cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to rats with acoustic trauma-induced tinnitus.

However, findings revealed that the administration of CBD and THC exacerbated tinnitus in the rats. The cannabinoids even caused tinnitus in the group of subjects that did not initially have a hearing problem.

These results led researchers to conclude that cannabinoids, like CBD and THC, may increase the development of tinnitus to subjects with pre-existing hearing damage.

However, other individuals believe that while CBD may not be an effective tinnitus treatment, it may help alleviate the stress and anxiety that tinnitus patients experience because of a hearing problem.

CBD has well-known antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties(22) that can help inhibit anxiety and depression, which commonly afflict tinnitus sufferers(23).

However, evidence to support this hypothesis is still lacking.

Medical research has yet to find a cure for tinnitus.

While current research suggests that cannabinoid use may aggravate tinnitus, further studies are still needed to validate these findings.

Still, many believe that CBD’s neuroprotective properties may help provide tinnitus sufferers much-needed anxiety relief, due to emotional distress that accompanies the hearing problem.

However, tinnitus patients should first consult with an audiologist or medical professional before administering or adding CBD oil to their current tinnitus treatment.

How CBD Oil Works for Tinnitus

Learning how the endocannabinoid system (ECS) interacts with CBD is key to understanding how CBD may work to relieve symptoms of tinnitus.

The ECS is an essential biological system that promotes homeostasis (stability) by regulating various bodily processes, such as sleep, mood, and memory(24).

It is composed of three components: endocannabinoids (cannabinoids created the body naturally), cannabinoid receptors, and enzymes.

The two primary types of cannabinoid receptors are CB1 and CB2 receptors.

While CB1 receptors are abundant in the brain and spinal cord, CB2 receptors are located in immune cells.

Endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids, like CBD, are both types of cannabinoids. The former is endogenous to the body, while the latter is found in plants like the Cannabis plant.

These cannabinoids act as signals for the body to take action. When they bind to cannabinoid receptors, a specific action can be triggered.

CBD’s anti-epileptic and anti-anxiety properties are activated upon its binding with CB1 and CB2 receptors.

A 2016 study suggests that various forms of cannabinoids may prove beneficial for patients suffering from tinnitus(25)

The researchers attribute cannabinoid interactions with CB1 and CB2 receptors as a potential target for treating tinnitus, which is believed to be a form of sensory epilepsy.

Studies have shown that cannabinoids, like CBD, can decrease overactive neurons in the brain, giving rise to its anti-epileptic and anxiety-inhibiting effects.

However, findings from other studies suggest that cannabinoids can do the opposite for auditory brain regions, which may explain why it aggravated tinnitus in one animal study(26).

Despite this, further studies are needed to fully illustrate how CBD, and its interactions with cannabinoid receptors, can affect tinnitus in patients.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of the hundreds of phytocannabinoids found within the Cannabis sativa plant.

In contrast to tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, CBD does not contain psychoactive properties that make its users experience euphoria or ‘high’.

CBD oil produced by most CBD companies and manufacturers is extracted from industrial hemp plants, one of the variants of the cannabis plant.

Unlike marijuana, another variant of the cannabis plant, industrial hemp contains less than 0.3% THC. As a result, CBD products and hemp products extracted from industrial hemp are non-psychoactive, and do not make its users high.

The Pros and Cons of CBD for Tinnitus

Pros

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) states that CBD is generally well-tolerated by its users, and has a good safety profile(27).
  • Federal law regulating CBD oil has become lax due to the recent legalization of the 2018 Farm Bill. Because of this, the cultivation and selling of CBD products have been authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)(28).
  • Various CBD products now exist on the market, including CBD tinctures, oil drops, sprays, capsules, gummies, and vape. Tinnitus sufferers can choose which CBD product best suits their lifestyle and needs.
  • Unlike THC, CBD does not make its users high. As a result, individuals can experience CBD’s health benefits without this significant disadvantage.
  • CBD’s anti-anxiety and antidepressant properties(29) may help tinnitus patients in relieving the stress and anxiety they feel as a result of their hearing problem.

Cons

  • Tinnitus symptoms can become worse with cannabinoid use(30).
    One study found that CBD and THC worsened tinnitus in rat subjects. The study also found that subjects with pre-existing hearing damage were more prone to develop tinnitus after the administration of both cannabinoids.
  • CBD can interact negatively with other drugs taken alongside it(31). Tinnitus patients with plans to use CBD for relief are advised to consult with a medical professional before initial administration.
  • Individuals taking CBD oil may experience unwanted side effects, such as dry mouth, fatigue, drowsiness, diarrhea, and reduced appetite(32).
  • Data on CBD’s ability to relieve tinnitus is still inconclusive. Further studies are needed to validate existing research findings

How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatment Options for Tinnitus

The recent hype around CBD oil as a possible tinnitus treatment may be explained by the lack of a proper cure for tinnitus.

The FDA has yet to approve an effective drug treatment for tinnitus. Clinical trials have not shown existing drugs, herbs, or supplements to be more effective than a placebo.

However, methods to manage tinnitus exist, such as hearing aids and behavioral strategies(33).

Medical professionals and audiologists recommend the combined use of behavioral strategies and sound-generating devices, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, tinnitus retraining therapy, and stress management.

These behavioral strategies all function to put tinnitus sufferers in a relaxed state, as stress can worsen tinnitus in patients.

In particular, the behavioral strategies commonly used to manage tinnitus let patients restructure their thoughts and change how they respond to tinnitus.

In the case of tinnitus retraining therapy, patients’ minds are rehabilitated to the point where they no longer notice or are bothered by the phantom sounds.

CBD’s anxiety-inhibiting properties may serve a similar function.

However, it is important to remember that CBD oil is not a cure for tinnitus or its underlying causes.

Tinnitus sufferers should first seek the advice of an audiologist or medical professional before using CBD oil as an alternative treatment for tinnitus relief.

How to Choose the Best CBD Oil for Tinnitus

Keep in mind the following factors when choosing the best CBD oil for tinnitus:

  • Full-spectrum CBD oil contains the majority of active cannabinoids, minerals, compounds, and fatty acids found in the hemp plant.

Full-spectrum CBD oil is often recommended for individuals who want to try CBD oil for the first time.

In full-spectrum CBD oil, all the ingredients work together for a more actualized effect, resulting in the entourage effect(34).

  • Although the 2018 Farm Bill has legalized the production and selling of industrial hemp products, like CBD oil, individuals should still research the legal provisions of the state where the CBD product is going to be purchased.
  • Prioritize buying only organic, non-GMO CBD products, as these are indicative of a product’s quality.
  • Legitimate CBD companies and sellers should have a COA (certificate of analysis) and third-party lab testing reports for every batch of oil produced.
  • Check the product’s ingredients for any THC content. THC should be less than 0.3%.
  • Always check for product reviews and customer feedback of both the CBD product and CBD brand or seller to gather information about the quality of the product.
  • Consult with a medical professional before administering CBD as part of an existing tinnitus treatment.

CBD Dosage for Tinnitus

There is no existing standard dosage chart or guidelines for CBD oil yet.

In CBD studies, differing CBD dosage was also given to human subjects.

However, high doses of CBD were reported to be well-tolerated by humans(35).

The common practice among CBD users is to start with a small dose and gradually increase until the desired effect is reached.

Each CBD company has its dosage chart. When in doubt, individuals should simply follow the dosage instructions as provided in the CBD product or consult with a doctor.

Tinnitus patients should also seek professional medical advice before administering CBD oil for tinnitus relief, as it can interact negatively with other drugs taken alongside it.

How to Take CBD Oil for Tinnitus

Various CBD products are now available in the market, with each product having a different method of administration.

CBD oil tinctures, oil drops, and sprays are administered under the tongue. It can also be mixed in food or drinks.

Individuals who may not be fond of CBD’s natural, earthy taste can opt for flavored CBD oil products.

Capsules, gummies, and vapes are also available for those who want to explore other administration methods.

Some CBD companies sell CBD vape juice. However, users should be aware of its accompanying health risks(36).

As for the frequency of use, CBD oil is generally taken twice a day.

However, CBD oil is by no means a miracle cure for tinnitus and may not bring the expected tinnitus relief.

The best approach would be to consult with a medical professional before administering CBD oil as part of one’s daily regimen.

Conclusion

Tinnitus patients may look to CBD oil for tinnitus relief after recent studies have shown tinnitus to be a form of sensory epilepsy.

However, there is a lack of scientific evidence to support CBD as an effective treatment for tinnitus.

One study has shown CBD to aggravate tinnitus, and not alleviate the hearing problem.

However, other medical professionals have recommended the use of CBD oil to mitigate feelings of anxiety and stress known to worsen tinnitus.

Further studies are needed to explore the effects of CBD on patients with tinnitus.

Tinnitus patients should first seek the advice of a medical professional before the initial administration of CBD oil.


  1. Smith, P. F., & Zheng, Y. (2016). Cannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors and tinnitus. Hearing research, 332, 210–216. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heares.2015.09.014
  2. Smith, P. F., & Zheng, Y. op. cit.
  3. Silvestro, S., Mammana, S., Cavalli, E., Bramanti, P., & Mazzon, E. (2019). Use of Cannabidiol in the Treatment of Epilepsy: Efficacy and Security in Clinical Trials. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 24(8), 1459. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules24081459
  4. Zheng, Y., Reid, P., & Smith, P. F. (2015). Cannabinoid CB1 Receptor Agonists Do Not Decrease, but may Increase Acoustic Trauma-Induced Tinnitus in Rats. Frontiers in neurology, 6, 60. https://doi.org/10.3389/fneur.2015.00060
  5. Falkenberg, E. S., & Wie, O. B. (2012). Anxiety and depression in tinnitus patients: 5-year follow-up assessment after completion of habituation therapy. International journal of otolaryngology, 2012, 375460. https://doi.org/10.1155/2012/375460
  6. Blessing, E. M., Steenkamp, M. M., Manzanares, J., & Marmar, C. R. (2015). Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics : the journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics, 12(4), 825–836. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1
  7. Smith, P. F., & Zheng, Y. (2016). op. cit.; National Research Council (US) Committee on Hearing, Bioacoustics, and Biomechanics. (1982). Tinnitus: Facts, Theories, and Treatments. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK217855/
  8. Silvestro, S., Mammana, S., Cavalli, E., Bramanti, P., & Mazzon, E. op. Cit.
  9. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (n.d.). Tinnitus. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tinnitus/symptoms-causes/syc-20350156#:~:text=Tinnitus%20is%20the%20perception%20of,or%20a%20circulatory%20system%20disorder.
  10. American Academy of Audiology. (2011). Tinnitus Prevalence. Retrieved from: https://www.audiology.org/news/tinnitus-prevalence
  11. VeDA. (n.d.). MÉNIÈRE’S DISEASE. Retrieved from: https://vestibular.org/menieres-disease
  12. Harvard Health Publishing. op. cit
  13. Ibid.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Casale, J., Kandle, PF., Murray, I., et al. (2020). Physiology, Cochlear Function. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK531483/
  16. Zheng, Y., Reid, P., & Smith, P. F. op. cit.; Kalappa, B. I., Soh, H., Duignan, K. M., Furuya, T., Edwards, S., Tzingounis, A. V., & Tzounopoulos, T. (2015). Potent KCNQ2/3-specific channel activator suppresses in vivo epileptic activity and prevents the development of tinnitus. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 35(23), 8829–8842. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5176-14.2015 
  17. Smith, P. F., & Zheng, Y. op. cit.
  18. Wallace MJ, Blair RE, Falenski KW, Martin BR, DeLorenzo RJ. The endogenous cannabinoid system regulates seizure frequency and duration in a model of temporal lobe epilepsy. J Pharmacol Exp Ther (2003) 307:129–37. doi:10.1124/jpet.103.051920
  19. Silvestro, S., Mammana, S., Cavalli, E., Bramanti, P., & Mazzon, E. op. cit.
  20. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2018). FDA Approves First Drug Comprised of an Active Ingredient Derived from Marijuana to Treat Rare, Severe Forms of Epilepsy. Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-first-drug-comprised-active-ingredient-derived-marijuana-treat-rare-severe-forms
  21. Zheng, Y., Reid, P., & Smith, P. F. op. cit.
  22. Schier, Alexandre & Ribeiro, Natalia & Coutinho, Danielle & Machado, Sergio & Arias-Carrión, Oscar & Nardi, Antonio & Cardoso, Adriana. (2014). Antidepressant-Like and Anxiolytic-Like Effects of Cannabidiol: A Chemical Compound of Cannabis sativa. CNS & neurological disorders drug targets. 13. 953-60.. 10.2174/1871527313666140612114838. 
  23. Falkenberg, E. S., & Wie, O. B. op. cit.
  24. Pacher, P., Bátkai, S., & Kunos, G. (2006). The endocannabinoid system as an emerging target of pharmacotherapy. Pharmacological reviews, 58(3), 389–462. https://doi.org/10.1124/pr.58.3.2
  25. Smith, P. F., & Zheng, Y. op. Cit.
  26. Zheng, Y., Reid, P., & Smith, P. F. op. cit.
  27. World Health Organization. (2018). CANNABIDIOL (CBD) Critical Review Report. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/CannabidiolCriticalReview.pdf
  28. US FDA. (2020, March 11). FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD). Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/fda-regulation-cannabis-and-cannabis-derived-products-including-cannabidiol-cbd 
  29. Blessing, E. M., Steenkamp, M. M., Manzanares, J., & Marmar, C. R. op. Cit.
  30. Zheng, Y., Reid, P., & Smith, P. F. op. cit.
  31. Iffland, K., & Grotenhermen, F. (2017). An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 2(1), 139–154. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2016.0034
  32. Bauer, B. (2018, Dec 20). What are the benefits of CBD — and is it safe to use? Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/expert-answers/is-cbd-safe-and-effective/faq-20446700
  33. Harvard Health Publishing. op. cit.
  34. Bauer, B. op. Cit.
  35. Iffland, K., & Grotenhermen, F. op. cit.
  36. Bruni N, Della Pepa C, Oliaro-Bosso S, Pessione E, Gastaldi D, Dosio F. Cannabinoid Delivery Systems for Pain and Inflammation Treatment. Molecules. 2018;23(10):2478. Published 2018 Sep 27. DOI:10.3390/molecules23102478.
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