by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A man wrote:
I have recently read a number of articles involving the use of Acamprosate (Campral) in treating tinnitus. One Brazilian study showed pretty positive results in giving tinnitus sufferers some relief using this drug.
I am going to see my ENT soon for my annual hearing test. While there, I am going to show him some articles I have printed to see if he would allow me to try this drug to see if I too can achieve some relief.
Prior to seeing him, I thought I would e-mail you to see if you have any thoughts or viewpoints regarding the use of this drug in the treatment of tinnitus. It seems as though the side effects are generally mild and well tolerated. After suffering with tinnitus for seven years, I would certainly welcome a trial with anything that may provide me some relief!
I hear you. There are millions of people in the same boat that would love to get rid of their tinnitus with a magic “tinnitus pill”, but that is not very likely in the near future.
First, be aware that at the present time there is not a single drug approved by the FDA for the treatment of tinnitus. To me this is a pretty strong indication that drugs are not the answer to curing tinnitus. Many drugs have been tried as possible tinnitus cures, but none has been very successful so far.
Now let’s look at Acamprosate (Campral). Acamprosate is approved for helping people overcome their alcohol addiction.
In the Brazilian study you mentioned, the figures sound impressive. After 90 days on Acamprosate there was a significant overall improvement rate of 87%. Nearly half stated their tinnitus had declined by at least 50%. Wow! Impressive results, right? But this was one small study involving only 25 people taking Acamprosate.
The results of this single study have been picked up and spread far and wide. What bothers me is that the research was done 4 years ago, and if the results of this study were so wonderful, why haven’t many other studies been done in the past 4 years verifying the results of this study? Why aren’t doctors prescribing this drug to help people with tinnitus? Why hasn’t the FDA moved to approve this drug for tinnitus treatment, and thus help the 50 million Americans that have tinnitus?
The truth is, Acamprosate is not without serious side effects including suicide and depression. In addition, it can be ototoxic. It has been implicated in hearing loss, tinnitus, dizziness and vertigo as well as [auditory] hallucinations.
When it comes to drugs, it is better to not be on the leading edge because most (about 51%) serious side effects are not discovered in the studies drug companies do—but only become apparent after the drug has been approved by the FDA and is released to the public. Do you really want to be the guinea pig?
One of the problems in finding a drug cure for tinnitus is that we so often think of tinnitus as a single condition—whereas it is really a number of different things that cause the annoying phantom sounds. Since there are a number of causes, it stands to reason that one treatment that not will work for everyone. The treatment has to fit the cause.
For example, some studies show that the herb, Ginkgo biloba, alleviates tinnitus, and other studies show it doesn’t. Who do you believe?
In actual fact, if your tinnitus was the result of lack of blood flow to your inner ears (cochlea), then Ginkgo may indeed “cure” your tinnitus. But, if your tinnitus was caused by ototoxic drugs, or wax in your ears, or a glomus tumor in your neck, then obviously Ginkgo is the wrong treatment.
Therefore, if and when Acamprosate has stood the test of time as an effective treatment for tinnitus, and if its benefits far outweigh its side effects, then, and only then, is it time to give it a try if you value your health.