Alcoholism Drug May Ease Ringing in the Ears

Improvements Seen in Small Study From Brazil

From the WebMD Archives

Sept. 22, 2005 -- A medication used to treat alcohol dependence may also help treat ringing in the ears.

Campral has never been tested before for noise or ringing in the ears (known medically as tinnitus), write Andreia Aparecida de Azevedo, MD, and Ricardo Rodrigues Figueiredo, MD.

The doctors, who both work at Rio de Janeiro's Sao Camilo Hospital, found that Campral eased tinnitus more than a fake drug in their small study of 50 tinnitus patients.

The findings will be presented in Los Angeles at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

The Difficulty With Tinnitus

Many types of treatment for tinnitus are available today, all of them with only partially satisfactory results, according to the researchers.

Treatment is difficult since the cause of tinnitus is often unknown.

Any treatment that can add a new perspective and relief is welcome, the researchers note.

Tinnitus Test

First, the patients rated their tinnitus problems on a scale of one to 10. Then, they were split into two groups.

Half of the patients took Campral three times daily for three months. The other half took a fake drug (placebo) on the same schedule. No one knew which patients got Campral.

Every 30 days, the patients rated their tinnitus problems again. Tinnitus improved more in the Campral group, regardless of tinnitus type, sex, age, or other factors, the study shows.

Tinnitus lessened in more than eight out of 10 patients taking Campral. That's a "very significant decrease," write the researchers. Tinnitus scores didn't improve notably in the placebo group, the doctors note.

Detailed Results

Since the study was small, percentages may not paint the whole picture. Here are the details for the Campral group:

  • No improvement: Three patients (13%)
  • Improvement of less than 50%: Nine patients (39%)
  • Improvement of more than 50%: Nearly 48%
  • Tinnitus disappeared: 13%

No major differences in side effects between the Campral and placebo groups were reported.

Why would a drug for alcohol dependence help treat tinnitus? Campral affects the hearing pathway as well as the central nervous system, write the researchers.

They call Campral "a good alternative" for treating tinnitus. However, more studies are needed, including information on long-term effects.

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SOURCES: Annual meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Los Angeles, Sept. 25-28, 2005. WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise: "Ringing in the Ears (Tinnitus)." News release, American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.
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