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BMJ Group Medical Reference

These medicines may help people with tinnitus feel better, especially if they are depressed. But they don't take away the tinnitus.

We found one summary of the research (called a systematic review) that looked at studies of tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs). [6] The drugs that were used in studies were nortriptyline (Allegron), trimipramine (Surmontil), and amitriptyline (Elavil).

People in two studies said the drugs improved their tinnitus or helped them to feel better and cope better. But in the other two studies in the summary, people said antidepressants didn't help. In one of the studies, a third of people thought the drugs did not help them. [6]

The summary also looked at another drug used to treat depression, called paroxetine (Seroxat). Paroxetine is a type of antidepressant called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). The summary found that paroxetine didn't help with tinnitus symptoms. [6]

A more recent study looked at an SSRI called sertraline (Lustral). [7] Everyone in the study had quite severe tinnitus. Those taking sertraline had more improvement in the severity and loudness of their tinnitus than those taking a dummy treatment (a placebo). But there was no difference between these groups in how much they were bothered by their symptoms.

However, in another small study in people with severe tinnitus, people taking sertraline felt that it improved their general well-being more than those taking a placebo, even though sertraline didn't improve tinnitus symptoms. So it's not clear how much sertraline can help. [8]

Antidepressants can have side effects. These are more likely with tricyclic antidepressants, which can cause a dry mouth, blurred vision and constipation. Dizziness can also be a problem, especially if you're older. [9]

Research has found that taking antidepressants of all kinds can make some people more likely to think about suicide or try to harm themselves. [10] Young people under 18 are especially at risk. You are more likely to think about self-harm in the early stages of your treatment, or if the dose of the antidepressant you’re taking is changed. [11] If you're taking an antidepressant and are worried about any thoughts or feelings you have, see your doctor or go to a hospital straight away. [11]



A placebo is a 'pretend' or dummy treatment that contains no active substances. A placebo is often given to half the people taking part in medical research trials, for comparison with the 'real' treatment. It is made to look and taste identical to the drug treatment being tested, so that people in the studies do not know if they are getting the placebo or the 'real' treatment. Researchers often talk about the 'placebo effect'. This is where patients feel better after having a placebo treatment because they expect to feel better. Tests may indicate that they actually are better. In the same way, people can also get side effects after having a placebo treatment. Drug treatments can also have a 'placebo effect'. This is why, to get a true picture of how well a drug works, it is important to compare it against a placebo treatment.

systematic reviews

A systematic review is a thorough look through published research on a particular topic. Only studies that have been carried out to a high standard are included. A systematic review may or may not include a meta-analysis, which is when the results from individual studies are put together.

For more terms related to Tinnitus


For references related to Tinnitus click here.
Last Updated: March 15, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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