Zinc, Tinnitus and Your Immune System

By Barry Keate
Barry Keate, has lived with tinnitus over 40 years and has published 150+ research articles on numerous aspects of tinnitus. He is an expert on the condition and a well-known advocate for those with tinnitus.

The inner ear contains the highest concentration of zinc of any organ. Numerous clinical studies have shown a correlation between zinc deficiency, tinnitus and sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) . SNHL is the most common type of hearing loss, occurring in 23 percent of the population older than 65 years of age. The term “sensorineural” is used to indicate some pathological change in structures within the inner ear or in the acoustic nerve.

One study showed that, “With zinc supplementation in patients who are marginally zinc deficient, there has been improvement in tinnitus and sensorineural hearing loss in about one-third of elderly adults.”(1) Another clinical trial showed supplementation with 34-68 mg of zinc over a two week period produced”. . . a significant decrease in the numeric scale (of the tinnitus).”(2) A French study using zinc to treat tinnitus found, “. . . positive results in about 52% of cases: in 15% there was a good amelioration and in 37% there was a smaller but significant amelioration of their symptoms. . . . (it is) more efficient in types of tinnitus of a continuous character than in other types.”(3)

A very positive and exciting study was  published on the role of zinc in the treatment of tinnitus. Published in the journal Otology and Neurotology in January of 2003, the study conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial at the Department of Ear, Nose and Throat, Head and Neck Surgery at Ankara Hospital in Ankara, Turkey. It concluded that a daily dosage of 50 mg of zinc to be very helpful for reducing tinnitus.(4)

There are no adverse affects from taking this dosage of zinc and there are no interactions between zinc and any prescription or over-the-counter medication. Ordinary elemental zinc is very difficult to absorb and only about 5% of it finds its way into the body’s system. Zinc that is chelated with an amino acid will enhance absorption levels up to 40%.Zinc, Tinnitus and Your Immune System

The zinc used in Arches Tinnitus Formula™ is the highest quality zinc picolinate available. We have added 7.5 mg of zinc picolinate to every capsule of Arches TF. Picolinic acid is the body’s prime natural chelator. and is the most efficient chelator for minerals such as zinc, manganese, copper, iron and chromium. At the suggested dosage of 4 capsules daily, the total zinc intake is 30 mg, well within the safety limits imposed by the National Institutes of Health.

Zinc is thought by many nutritionists to be the most important of all mineral supplements. It is commonly deficient in the diet yet it is essential for over 100 enzyme systems and for the normal functioning of the immune system. Mild deficiency can cause growth retardation in children. More severe deficiency is associated with growth arrest, infertility, poor wound healing, behavioral changes, taste and smell disorders and tinnitus. Zinc, like Ginkgo biloba extract is also a powerful antioxidant, scouring toxins from the body.

The major functions of zinc include:

Supports a multitude of enzyme systems – for alcohol and amino acid metabolism, protein digestion, and energy production, as well as in immune function and in the body’s fight against damaging free radicals.

Supports good prostate and reproductive health for men and is very important for teenagers during puberty.

Supports optimum immune function. It is necessary for proper T cell and natural killer cell function and proper lymphocyte activity. Zinc is directly involved in antibody production to help fight infection.

Zinc plays a major role in keeping the thymus going. The thymus gland orchestrates the workings of the immune system. The thymus is big and robust when we are young but declines with age. When we are born, the thymus, tucked in the neck behind the top of our collarbone, is bigger than our heart. The shrinking starts at puberty and by the time we’re sixty, it’s a pale shadow of its former self. This parallels the rapid decline of our immune system. The shrinkage of the immune system is one of the most visible signs of aging.

Until recently, the experts considered this slow decline as an irreversible decline of advancing age. This is simply not true. French researchers recently found that immune systems of even the aged could be reversed. A group of institutionalized people, aged 73 to 106 years, was given a daily dose of 20 milligrams of zinc. All subjects were deficient in zinc. Their thymulin activity shot as much as 50 percent in just a couple of months. There were no side effects. Zinc also markedly pushed up the blood levels of albumin, a protein that is low in most elderly. Albumin could be a biomarker of longevity, meaning those with higher levels seem to live longer. Thus, the humble zinc may actually extend life!

Despite the many benefits of zinc supplementation, it is possible to take too much of the mineral. High doses of zinc can lead to toxic reactions such as abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. Zinc competes for absorption with copper and manganese and high doses can result in deficiencies of these necessary minerals.

The National Institutes of Health has prepared a document outlining the perils of too little or too much zinc in the body. They state that, “Intakes of 150 to 450mg of zinc per day have been associated with low copper status, altered iron function, reduced immune function, and reduced levels of high-density lipoproteins (the good cholesterol). They have also established an upper limit of daily zinc intake that is not associated with any adverse health effects. The limit for infants and children under 18 years old ranges is from 4mg to 34mg daily, depending on age. The upper limit for adults and pregnant and lactating women is 40mg daily. Above this level, zinc should be taken with small amounts of copper and manganese. The general rule is to take 1-2mg copper and 2-3mg manganese for every 10mg of zinc above a 40mg daily dosage. Therefore, someone taking 60mg zinc daily should also take 2-4 mg copper and 4-6 mg manganese.


1. Shambaugh GE Jr. Zinc: the neglected nutrient. Am J Otol 1989 Mar;10(2):156-60.
2. Ochi K, Ohashi T, Kinoshita H, Akagi M, Kikuchi H, Mitsui M, Kaneko T, Kato I. The serum zinc level in patients with tinnitus and the effect of zinc treatment. Nippon Jibiinkoka Gakkai Kaiho 1997 Sep;100(9):915-9.
3. Gersdorff M, Robillard T, Stein F, Declaye X, Vanderbemden S. A clinical correlation between hypozincemia and tinnitus. Arch Otorhinolaryngol 1987;244(3):190-3.
4. Arda HN, Tuncel U, Akdogan O, Ozluoglu LN. The role of zinc in the treatment of tinnitus. Otol Neurotol. 2003 Jan;24(1):86-9.

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