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Alpha Lipoic Acid and Tinnitus

Robert M. DiSogra

May 3, 2010


Question

Does alpha lipoic acid, a supplement, have any effect on tinnitus?

Answer

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Thank you for your question. This was a tough one to nail down but I came up with the following information:

The short answer: No.

Can it be used for tinnitus relief? Yes. Effective? The jury is still out (see the long answer).

Is tinnitus an adverse reaction of lipoic acid? No.

The long answer:

Alpha lipoic acid (also referred to as lipoic acid) is a fatty acid found naturally inside every cell in the body. It's needed by the body to produce the energy for our body's normal functions. Alpha lipoic acid converts glucose (blood sugar) into energy. It is thought to work as an antioxidant (a substance that neutralizes potentially harmful chemicals called free radicals) in both water and fatty tissue, enabling it to enter all parts of the nerve cell and protect it from damage.

Alpha lipoic acid can be found in very small amounts in foods such as spinach, broccoli, peas, Brewer's yeast, brussel sprouts, rice bran, and organ meats. Alpha lipoic acid supplements are available in health food stores and online.

Alpha lipoic acid has been suggested for cataracts, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, burning mouth syndrome, Alzheimer's disease and stroke, but large, well-designed studies are needed to see if it's effective for these conditions.

Side effects lipoic acid may include headache, tingling or a "pins and needles" sensation, skin rash, or muscle cramps. Tinnitus is not reported nor is it exacerbated by taking alpha lipoic acid.

According to the website www.communicationagents.com, a high number of tinnitus sufferers are deficient in B-12. Emily A. Kane, naturopathic doctor and licensed acupuncturist, recommends a daily dose of 2,000 mcg of B-12 for one month, followed by a dose of 1,000 mcg daily, if needed. Studies indicate that nutritional supplements can reduce the severity and incidences of tinnitus. Dr. Michael Seidman, MD, Director of the Henry Ford Health System, Department of Otolaryngology, Tinnitus Clinic, in Bloomfield, Michigan, suggests a smorgasbord of antioxidant nutrients: vinpocetine, Ginkgo biloba, ipriflavone, arginine, alpha lipoic acid, zinc, vitamin A, n-acetylcysteine, magnesium, melatonin, Chinese herbs, B vitamins and garlic. Other sources list additional supplements: vitamin E, C, zinc, and choline, to help with both tinnitus and hearing loss.

The website www.bio-alternatives.net reports that it can also be used in the treatment of diabetics and of dialysis patients for protection of the erythrocytes, in central and peripheral circulatory disturbances and in tinnitus and hearing loss.

From the abstract of a Duke University Medical Center study in 1999, it was reported that free radical generation is found to be responsible for many pathological processes, including drug toxicity. The authors report that studies have demonstrated the ability of gentamicin to facilitate the generation of radical species suggesting that this process plays an important role in aminoglycoside-induced ototoxicity. Free radical scavengers are compounds capable of inactivating free radicals. This study examined the ability of alpha- lipoic acid (100 mg/kg/day) to attenuate the cochlear damage induced by amikacin (450 mg/kg/day, i.m.) in pigmented guinea pigs. Based on the data, the authors concluded that alpha-lipoic acid has a potential clinical therapeutic use of in the management of patients undergoing aminoglycoside treatment.

An over-the-counter supplement for tinnitus states alpha lipoic acid protects against free-radical damage, supports nerve system function, and plays an essential role in generating mitochondria in the hair cells of the inner ear.(www.earaid.info/EarAid.html)

A supplemenmt manufacturer states: Given the positive safety profile of lipoic acid and the promise of a significant degree of auditory protection, it makes good sense to add lipoic acid to your supplement program. http://www.discount-vitamins-herbs.net/tinnitus.htm.

Also, bodily toxicity is best addressed by a regiment of antioxidants and Alpha Lipoic Acid which help clear the system (tinnitusdx.com/abouttinnitus.php)

Invista.com reports that Alpha lipoic acid "... supports nerve system function, and plays an essential role in generating mitochondrea in the hair cells of the inner ear. It has also been shown to improve overall energy and age-related hearing losses...Alpha lipoic acid converts to DHLA (dihydrolipoic acid) which is known to recycle glutathione which, in turn, recycles vitamin E. Because it has such powerful action against free-radicals, there is also evidence that it plays an important role in reducing presbycusis and improving cochlear function, as well as providing protection against noise and auditory toxicity caused by ototoxic drug therapies.
(www.innvista.com/health/ailments/earail/hearnutr.htm)

I also found these two blog items of interest:

  1. I have been taking the Alpha Lipoic Acid recommended by my doctor. I have experienced no new results as of yet. http://tinnitus123.blogspot.com/

  2. Alpha Lipoic Acid: A powerful antioxidant which flushes toxins, and protects auditory system from the damage of medications. tinnitusdx.com/blog/tag/alpha-lipoic-acid/
And finally, I found this on www.healthboards.com:

"I'm highly stressed because of the unbearably loud screeching, hissing, ringing and squeeling day and night which causes me not to sleep which causes the noises to be worse,, etc., etc.,! Half the time the noise is SOOOO loud, I can't even here the TV without cranking it up almost full blast!! Things like Ginko Biloba (they say it takes at least six weeks to work, I've been on high doses for over THREE MONTHS,, AND NO RELIEF) or Alpha Lipoic acid are supposed to help the tinnitus alot,, well, they do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO CURE THIS!! If you read online about the conditions these supplements are supposed to help, you'll find mostly memory enhancement, and they all seem to be great for diabetes or lowering blood pressure. These wonderful MIRACLE "cure all" supplements are no more then a placebo at best! No one pill can help the thirty or forty areas that these supplements all claim to help! I guess they figure since they're not really sure what these supplements help, they'll just list every possible ailment they can come up with and figure that somebody will have to "think" they've gotten relief on their pills!" (www.healthboards.com/boards/showthread.php?t=289180&page=2)

Summary

Lipoic acid - like many supplements - does not have to undergo the detailed scrutiny required for approval by the FDA. Therefore efficacy and safety do not have to be proven. Like any supplement available in stores, the small print on the label reads:

"These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat , cure or prevent any disease."

Therefore, a visit to www.fda.gov will be your best source for this type of information.

References

Holmquist;L, Stuchbury, G;Berbaum, K;Muscat, S;Young, S;Hager, K;Engel, J;Münch, G. (2007). Lipoic acid as a novel treatment for Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. Pharmacology & Therapeutics. 113(1),154-164.

Conlon, B.J.;Aran, J.M.;Erre, J.P.;Smith, D.W. (1999, February). Attenuation of aminoglycoside-induced cochlear damage with the metabolic antioxidant alpha- lipoic acid. Hearing Research, 128(1-2),40-44.

Dr. Robert M. DiSogra, FAAA, is the owner and Director of Audiology Associates of Freehold, PC in Freehold, NJ. He has published and presented nationally and internationally on adverse drug/herbal reactions (as it pertains to the practice of audiology) and on locating reliable drug information on the Internet.


robert m disogra

Robert M. DiSogra

Dr. Robert M. DiSogra is a graduate of the PCO School of Audiology. He received his Masters Degree in Audiology from Hofstra University on Long Island in 1976 and a Bachelor's Degree in Speech Education (K-12) from St. John's University in NY in 1975.

Bob is a US Navy veteran and he attributes his transition from speech pathology to Audiology from his electronics/communications experiences in the Navy.

He has had his private practice for the past 18 years in Freheold, NJ. His teaching assignments include Pharmacology/Ototoxicity at PCO, graduate and undergraduate courses in Audiology at Rutger's University (NJ) and Kean College of NJ. He has also presented papers at the national meetings of AAA, ADA, ASHA, NHCA and other allied health organizations.


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