In the article, Try These 10 Things To Manage Tinnitus, one nutrient was listed as a potential remedy to reduce ringing in the ears and phantom noises. Do you eat plenty of salmon and other fish, as well as beef, eggs, and turkey? If so, you’re consuming the best natural sources of this nutrient.
The problem is that you may not be absorbing this nutrient well. And as a result, your tinnitus may be worse because of it.
The nutrient in question is vitamin B12.
What’s The Relationship Between Vitamin B12 & Tinnitus?
Military veterans suffering from hearing loss and tinnitus can point to an obvious culprit for their auditory problems: defective 3M earplugs.
However, some veterans (and of course, civilians) may not effectively absorb B12.
For optimal health, it’s important to have sufficient levels of B12. That’s because it keeps blood cells healthy. The nutrient is also involved in energy metabolism. That’s why one of the most common signs of deficiency is fatigue or lethargy.
Out of all the nutrients humans get from food, Vitamin B12 is one of the most difficult for the body to absorb. It requires three special proteins. The first is R-factor. This protects B12 from highly corrosive stomach acid.
Another protein, gastric intrinsic factor, drives B12 into the cells that line the small intestine.
The third protein needed for B12 absorption is transcobalamin II. (The scientific name of B12 is cobalamin.) This protein escorts cobalamin into the lymphatic vessels. From here, B12 travels to the liver and ultimately to the rest of the body.
As you can see, it’s not that simple to absorb vitamin B12. If any of these three proteins in your body is deficient, you likely won’t have adequate blood levels of the nutrient.
This is not to say that all people who experience tinnitus are deficient in vitamin B12. However, according to at least one study, a significant percentage of research participants with tinnitus were shown to have low blood levels of cobalamin. The good news is that after receiving vitamin B12 supplementation, the test subjects’ tinnitus improved.
Research With B12 & Tinnitus
It’s believed that this 1993 study was the first to show the connection between chronic tinnitus and B12 deficiency. In the study, which involved 113 army personnel exposed to loud noise, three groups were researched: patients with chronic tinnitus and noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL; 57 subjects), patients with NIHL only (29 subjects), and those demonstrating normal hearing (27).
Patients with tinnitus and NIHL exhibited vitamin B12 deficiency in 47% of cases. This was significantly more than the NIHL and normal hearing groups. These two groups exhibited 27% and 19% vitamin B12 deficiency, respectively.
A dozen patients who received follow-up B12 replacement therapy experienced some improvement with their tinnitus. The authors of the study thus recommended that routine vitamin B12 serum levels be checked for those who experience tinnitus.
In a smaller study from India, people with tinnitus who received a weekly B12 injection for six weeks also experienced an improvement.
How Does Low Vitamin B12 Contribute to Tinnitus?
The function of the part of your inner ear that transforms soundwaves into a neural message–the cochlea–depends on adequate blood supply to the vessels as well as normal functioning of nerve tissue.
Vitamin B12 deficiency may cause neurons in the cochlear nerve
Vitamin B12 deficiency neuropathy is hypomethylation in the central nervous system. Cochlear function is dependent on adequate vascular supply and the normal functioning of nerve tissue. B12 deficiency is associated with axonal degeneration, demyelination, and subsequent apoptotic neuronal death. Vitamin B12 deficiency may cause damage to the protective covering of the cochlear nerve. This can exacerbate tinnitus or cause hearing loss.
In addition, the fluid in the cochlea may become compromised by low levels of Vitamin B12.
Pernicious Anemia, Low Vitamin B12 and Tinnitus
Pernicious anemia is an autoimmune disorder in which people don’t have one of the three necessary proteins mentioned above–intrinsic factor–to absorb vitamin B12.
Tinnitus can be a neurological manifestation of pernicious anemia.
In a case presented to an ear, nose and throat doctor, the study author mentions that because of pernicious anemia, cardiac output is increased. This increased flow state is perceived in the ear as a transmitted pulsatile tinnitus. Pulsatile tinnitus is, according to WebMD, a thumping or whooshing sound in one or both ears that seems to follow a steady beat.
If you haven’t had your blood levels of vitamin B12 checked lately (or ever), get ‘er done. Contact your physician. If you’re reluctant to go to the doctor, you may be able to order a B12 test online. By improving your blood level of vitamin B12, you may experience less intense or less frequent bouts of tinnitus.