Antioxidants and Ear Trouble
Antioxidant therapy alleviates symptoms and reverses hearing loss in some people with Meniere’s disease (MD) who have not been helped by other therapies, according to a new study published in Acta Otolaryngologica (2003;123:697–703).
MD is a neurological disorder that affects the inner ear and is characterized by vertigo (dizziness), tinnitus (ringing in the ears), sensation of fullness in the ears, and eventual hearing loss. Treatments are typically aimed at symptom relief and include the use of antihistamines, diuretics, and sedatives. These medications have demonstrated some effectiveness in alleviating vertigo; however, none have been found to reduce tinnitus or hearing loss.
Although most people with MD experience spontaneous recovery after two to three years, nearly 30% continue to suffer with vertigo, tinnitus, and progressive hearing loss after many years of attempted symptom management. Recent research has suggested that oxidative damage may play an important role in the development and progression of MD. Other studies have shown that antioxidants might protect the inner ear from the damage that certain medications and trauma can cause.
Twenty-five people with MD participated in the current study. All of the participants had been treated with medications for two or more months but continued to have vertigo, progressive hearing loss, or both. One or more of the following antioxidants was added to their treatment program during the study: 300 mg per day of rebamipide, 600 mg per day of vitamin C, and 300 mg per day of glutathione. Vertigo, tinnitus, hearing, and overall disability were evaluated at the start of the study and after four weeks, eight weeks, and 12 months of antioxidant therapy. The average number of vertigo episodes experienced by participants was more than 91% lower at the end of the study than at the beginning. Tinnitus and overall disability also decreased significantly from the beginning to the end of the study. Furthermore, hearing loss progressed in only one participant, while 52% had no change in hearing and 44% experienced an improvement in hearing.
The results of this preliminary study suggest that antioxidant therapy effectively alleviates the symptoms of Meniere’s disease in people who have not benefited from medications. Antioxidants also have the potential to halt hearing loss and to restore hearing in some people. Controlled trials are needed to confirm the efficacy of antioxidant therapy and to determine who will benefit most from this treatment approach. The distinct effects of individual antioxidants also need to be identified.
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, Vermont, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.
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