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Medical Marijuana and Tinnitus

What Is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is simply described as ringing in the ears. However, tinnitus has multiple levels of severity and can cause other complications. Furthermore, there are several causes of tinnitus. The symptoms of tinnitus include ringing, whooshing, roaring, hissing, chirping, buzzing or roaring in the ears. This can occur with a sensation of other sounds being cancelled out. The sounds are not actually occurring outside of the body but are still perceived by the sufferer of tinnitus. 

Tinnitus can be chronic or it can occur only a few times over a lifetime. It can also happen in one ear or in both ears. In some cases, it is a slight sound, causing little discomfort. In other cases, it feels very loud and interferes with normal hearing. Many people experience tinnitus over the course of their lifetimes with no debilitating or long-term complications. Others are disabled by it. Ludwig van Beethoven is a prime example of a person with debilitating tinnitus. Tinnitus can be a symptom of something minor or it can be a symptom of a severe condition such as hearing loss, thyroid conditions, brain tumors and heart disease.

Given the various conditions that can cause tinnitus, there are numerous ways that medical marijuana can help. It can aid in chemotherapy in individuals who have brain tumors causing tinnitus and medical marijuana can help treat thyroid conditions. These are just a few examples of how medical marijuana can get to the root cause of tinnitus. It also appears to treat the symptom itself in some patients. Of course, it will often depend on the cause and potential for other treatment. In some cases, medical instruments like hearing aids and noise generators are the preferred treatment.

Medical Marijuana and Tinnitus

Tinnitus and Medical Marijuana Research 

Tinnitus research has conclusively shown that it is a brain problem. Of course, it can stem from problems in the ear. However, it is occurring in the brain. This was proven when people with complete hearing loss, including cutting of the auditory nerve, presented with tinnitus. Therefore, any treatment for tinnitus that does not involve treating complications, underlying conditions and producing sound in the ear must affect the body on a neurological level. 

Dr. Thanos Tzounopoulos is a leading researcher in tinnitus. He discovered the plasticity of the auditory brain stem. Put simply, the auditory messages in the brain can "learn" to be more sensitive to certain stimuli. He published his research in 2009. In 2011, he published further research that showed exaggerated activity in the brains of mice with tinnitus. Tzounopoulos has also made breakthroughs in the understanding of the endocannabinoid system, which he finds controls plasticity in the brain. It is also what reacts to medical marijuana. He compares tinnitus to chronic pain and addiction, which also involve plasticity in the brain and are also treated with medical marijuana. While this does not shed light on the precise mechanism by which medical marijuana provides relief for tinnitus, it does show the components of the mechanism. 

Thanos Tzounopoulos, Ph.D. is currently on the cutting edge of research in this area. His findings are still relatively new and he is still working on this research, so there may be more information forthcoming about the endocannabinoid system and tinnitus soon. He is currently working as an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh and is part of their auditory research group. 

Tinnitus Complications and Medical Marijuana Research

As mentioned above, some of the conditions that cause tinnitus can be treated with medical marijuana. Additionally, some of the complications of tinnitus can also be treated with medical marijuana. These complications include anxiety, insomnia, depression, irritability and difficulty concentrating. Doctors may prescribe medical marijuana to treat these complications, particularly insomnia, anxiety and depression. Medical marijuana may also be used to treat conditions that can co-occur with tinnitus, resulting in relief from both tinnitus and the other conditions. One example of such a condition is PTSD. Soldiers often experience tinnitus and hearing loss resulting from explosions. They are also among the most common PTSD patients. There is research supporting the use of medical marijuana for all of the abovementioned symptoms and conditions. Therefore, it has potential as a multipurpose drug.

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