Benzodiazepines, Tinnitus & Neuroplasticity: Drugs For Tinnitus

Drugs for tinnitus

There has been a lot of debate on the use of anti-anxiety meds, benzodiazepines specifically, and whether or not they should be used for tinnitus patients. Other antidepressants and medications are commonly used by tinnitus patients, including herbal supplements and over-the-counter drugs.

I recently studied with Dr. Pawel Jastreboff and his wife. I learned a lot working with them. They are both neuroscientists and have been helping people with tinnitus with one-on-one counseling for many years.

Dr. Thompson talks about some medication for tinnitus

One of my major realizations was that the benzodiazepine family of drugs suppresses neuroplasticity, which is the healthy brain changes that are needed to recover from tinnitus.

Why is this important?

Many people in the United States are on benzodiazepines. It’s one of the most common drugs to help manage anxiety and depression. I am not a doctor who recommends medications. However, as an audiologist helping people with tinnitus, I’m in a unique role in that most doctors who recommend this medication don’t realize that bothersome tinnitus has a harder time getting better when someone is consistently using Valium, Xanax, Klonopin, or other drugs in the benzodiazepine family. These are not recommended because they slow neuroplasticity from happening as quickly as it otherwise would if everything else is taken care of.

There is, of course, a disclaimer here: If you’re taking Valium, Xanax, Klonopin, or other benzodiazepines, there’s a good reason why you’re on it. You were prescribed the drugs to keep you healthy.

My recommendation is for you to stay calm and share this new knowledge with other people. Please don’t panic over the fact that you have been taking some of these drugs without knowing about the side effects on neuroplasticity. At one point, I didn’t know this. I’m an audiologist and I can confidently inform you that most audiologists are not aware of this.  I’m not completely comfortable sharing this because I’m not a doctor who prescribes the medication. Therefore, if this applies to you I encourage you to share this knowledge with your doctor and to recognize that it will be intense if you stop taking the medication cold turkey. I don’t recommend that. Please consult your doctor before you make any changes to the drugs you’re taking.

You can ask your physician to change the drug family from benzodiazepine to a similar antidepressant or anti-anxiety drug that might have a similar effect for you.

In terms of herbal supplements and over-the-counter drugs, there are none that are scientifically proven to reduce tinnitus. If it’s working for you then continue with it. It might be a placebo effect. If over-the-counter or herbal supplement drugs are helping you, then keep using them, but if they’re not then stop using them. 

Someone made a good comment once: “Instead of buying herbal supplements off the internet for tinnitus, make a donation to the American Tinnitus Association.”

To learn what may help you manage your tinnitus, please download our free 10-page e-book, The Ultimate Guide to Tinnitus Relief. Dr. Thompson offers Tinnitus Retraining Therapy via telehealth. Please contact our team at Pure Tinnitus to learn more.

Dr. Ben Thompson, Au.D.

Dr. Ben Thompson, Au.D.

Dr. Ben Thompson is an audiologist in California and founder of Pure Tinnitus. Dr. Thompson has a comprehensive knowledge of tinnitus management. He completed his residency at University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) and is a past board member of the California Academy of Audiology. Via telehealth, Dr. Thompson provides services to patients with hearing loss and tinnitus.

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