Ringing in the ears is a common condition that temporarily afflicts most individuals at one time or another. Common causes include excessive aspirin consumption, or the aftereffects of attending a loud rock concert. Tinnitus refers to the perception of sounds, most often ringing, in the absence of a normal external stimulus. When chronic, it can be extremely frustrating and sometimes incapacitating.
Researchers at the Ear Research Foundation in Sarasota, Florida performed a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluating the role of supplemental melatonin in the therapy of tinnitus. This was performed on outpatients in a private neurology practice. Patients were given 3 mg of melatonin nightly for thirty nights.
At the conclusion of the study, it was discovered that 47 percent of those on melatonin had an improvement compared to 20 percent of those on placebo. The researchers state, "Melatonin has been shown to be useful in the treatment of subjective tinnitus. Patients with difficulty sleeping are most likely to benefit from treatment with melatonin. In light of its minimal side effects, melatonin should be a part of the physician's armamentarium in the treatment of tinnitus.
The researchers probably don't know about tolerance that can develop to melatonin. I don't think patients with tinnitus should be taking the hormone every night. Perhaps 1 mg two or three times a week would be appropriate. We don't know at this time whether other natural sleep aids, like 5-HTP, would benefit those with tinnitus.
Rosenberg SI, Silverstein H, Rowan PT, Olds MJ. Effect of melatonin on tinnitus. Laryngoscope 108(3):305-10, 1998.