Tinnitus: The Phantom Noise Affecting 1 in Every 5 People
Tinnitus can be a minor irritant or a psychosis inducing nightmare. This week we put together some information about tinnitus that may be of interest to you.
Tinnitus is a phantom sound in either one or both ears. Tinnitus is not a disease but rather a condition where a person hears a constant noise in their ear or head in the absence of any actual external noise. Tinnitus is simply a symptom that lets you know that there is an underlying condition within the auditory system.
How Prevalent is Tinnitus?
The American Tinnitus Association (ATA) reported that nearly 50 million Americans suffer from tinnitus. Tinnitus is actually considered to be one of the most common auditory conditions effecting about 1 in every 5 people.
Symptoms of Tinnitus?
The noise heard in patients with tinnitus can be soft as a whistle or loud to the point of being draining and absolutely annoying. While ringing, buzzing or hissing type sounds are most common, others include crickets, high pitched sounds, wind, whistling, clicking or rushing sounds that are synchronized with an individual's heartbeat. Tinnitus can also cause other symptoms such as sleep disturbances, insomnia, frustration, concentration problems, hearing loss, and dizziness.
What Natural Based Options are Effective for Tinnitus?
Many natural options exist for tinnitus sufferers seeking a solution to the noise. Keep reading for " Natural Options using Alternative & Eastern Medicine".
Western Medicine's View on What Causes Tinnitus
In Western Medicine, the exact physiological or neurological cause or causes of an individual's tinnitus condition is difficult to identify. Because of this, medical doctors are often left with no clear-cut treatment for this condition. Western Medicine does have generally accepted probable causes that are known to trigger or exacerbate tinnitus and doctors will oftentimes look to treat these causes (below) in the hopes that symptoms may improve.
Drug Side Effects
It is important to note that tinnitus could be caused by side effects of certain medications such as aspirin (if overused), salicylates, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, aminoglycoside antibiotics, loop diuretics, and chemotherapy agents (e.g., platins and vincristine).1
Stress as a Potential Cause
Several studies have suggested possible causes of tinnitus to be elevated levels of stress, anxiety and depression, as well as possible links to loss or interference of sleep, physical exhaustion or chronic feelings of annoyance or depression. Others believe that when emotionally stressful situations (like anxiety or depression) are combined with physical damage to the inner ear from loud noise, drug side effects, or cranial imbalance, a shift in the brain can more easily result in causing tinnitus symptoms.
What Treatments are Available in Western Medicine?
Conventional Western Medicine attempts to treat the symptoms of tinnitus since it is generally accepted that there is no cure for tinnitus. Western Medicine's goal is to use treatments that help an individual better cope with the severity of the tinnitus symptoms.
- Amplification / Hearing Aids: are often used for individuals who have both tinnitus and hearing loss to help a person hear better so as to not notice the tinnitus as much.
- Pharmacotherapy (medication): while there is no medication based cure for tinnitus, antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs may be prescribed by a doctor to improve your mood and help you sleep. Since all medications can potentially cause negative side effects, individuals should consult with their primary physician about taking "long-term" tinnitus associated medications since they do not treat the cause of this condition.
- Cognitive therapy and Counseling involves teaching individuals to cope with their tinnitus via education as well as by replacing negative thinking with more positive thought patterns.
- Sound Therapy or White Noise Generators in the form of either wearable sound generators or electronic devices that create sounds of music or tones that help mask tinnitus symptoms.
- Acoustic neural stimulation is a relatively new technique for people whose tinnitus is very loud or won’t go away. It uses a palm-sized device and headphones to deliver a broadband acoustic signal embedded in music. The treatment helps stimulate change in the neural circuits in the brain, which eventually desensitizes you to the tinnitus. The device has been shown to be effective in reducing or eliminating tinnitus in a significant number of study volunteers.
- Cochlear implants are used to bypass the portion of the inner ear that has been damaged and helps bring outside sounds in that mask tinnitus symptoms. These implants are occasionally used in people who have severe hearing loss along with tinnitus.
- Massage, Stretching and Stress Reduction Techniques have been used to relieve tension and stress in the hopes to reduce tinnitus symptoms.
Eastern Medicine's View on What Really Causes Tinnitus?
In Eastern Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners have similar and different theories and methodologies regarding what causes tinnitus symptoms. Eastern Medicine agrees with many of the above causes commonly accepted in Western Medicine, but goes a little further by also taking into account each person's individual situation, body type, organ balance or imbalance, and their overall energetic system. This allows Eastern Medicine practitioners to better identify potential causes and thus provide more specific treatments.
Below are some of the possible causes of tinnitus that Eastern Medicine practitioners believe to cause or worsen tinnitus symptoms:
- Diet: Eastern Medicine philosophies believe that diets that are high in fatty foods or irregular eating patterns can lead to excess "phlegm" which can cause tinnitus symptoms. "Phlegm" a term used in TCM to describe a body with excess fluid retention.
- Food Allergies or Food Sensitivities can cause symptoms of tinnitus. Completely eliminating a specific type of food for 3-5 days to see if the symptoms reduce is one way to identify a potential cause.
- Organ Energy System Imbalance: In TCM, certain kidney, spleen and liver energy imbalances are known to produce tinnitus symptoms such as "yin deficiency" or " Heart Blood Deficiency".
- Emotional Stress in the form of anger, frustration, grief or anxiety can trigger symptoms of tinnitus because of the energetic imbalance that those emotions create in the body. For example, within the liver energy, these negative emotions may cause "internal wind" within the energetic system and result in symptoms of tinnitus, dizziness, headache or vertigo.
- Nutritional Deficiencies: Practitioners who have nutritional backgrounds may discuss how specific minerals including zinc and magnesium can play a role in tinnitus symptoms if a person is deficient in one of these minerals.
For tinnitus sufferers who either want to try a more natural route, or for sufferers that simply have no effective Western Medicine options available, Alternative or Eastern Medicine can be a welcomed choice. Options such as the ones below are examples of methods used to support the body's healing potential in areas related to tinnitus:
- Stress Reduction: Stress reduction methods are recommended using any techniques that focus on improving the imbalances associated with either emotional or physical stress.
- Dietary Changes: Since food allergies or sensitivities can cause tinnitus, some dieticians and nutritionists recommend keeping a food journal and/or eliminating certain types of foods to provide an individual with feedback whether a food is causing tinnitus. Foods that are generally recognized as causing allergies or sensitivities are corn, soy, wheat, processed sugar or peanuts. Supplementation of zinc or magnesium citrate is also investigated if a person is deficient in these minerals.
- Acupuncture: Acupuncture is often used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat tinnitus. Since certain kidney, spleen and liver dysfunctions are known to produce tinnitus symptoms, acupuncture may be used to directly address these deficiencies.
- The Mayo Clinic suggests, some alternative therapies that have been tried for tinnitus include hypnosis, zinc supplements, ginkgo biloba and B vitamins
- Oxygen: Breathing more deeply, opening windows in the car/home/office to bring in more fresh oxygenated air can provide higher oxygen levels to the body and thus increase oxygen circulation to the entire body.
- Osteopathic / Chiropractic: Neurosoma Therapies - There is a theory that hypertonic spasm aka muscle tension can also be a cause of tinnitus. If this is the case, then speaking to a Doctor of Osteopathy (DO) or Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) who perform Neurosoma Therapy to see if you are a candidate for their therapy is a possible method to investigate.
- Herbal Supplements: Herbs have been used for thousands of years by Eastern Medicine practitioners to offer an individual's body with specific energetic support in relationship to tinnitus. For example, sesame seeds are used by herbalists in China for their patients suffering with tinnitus. The seeds are believed in TCM to be good for dizziness and blurred vision as well. In general, Eastern Medicine philosophies believe that a healthier liver and kidney energy are directly linked to decreased tinnitus symptoms.*
The American Tinnitus Association (ATA) states that while they know that there is much more to understand and do about this problem, along with exciting research, resource like the ATA, you can help you better manage tinnitus.
Important Note: While Alternative, Complementary and Traditional Chinese Medicine may offer improved and customized strategies for each individual based on their entire and specific circumstances, please remember that it is important to discuss your particular tinnitus situation with a qualified healthcare practitioner in each area of expertise (Western Medicine, Eastern Medicine, complementary and alternative medicine).
Let us know if you have any thoughts or questions.
The Staff at Get Well Natural, LLC
Eastern Medicine Herbal Formulas
Get Well Natural offers Eastern Medicine formulas that are designed to support the body for those concerned with healthy stress management and healthy blood pressure and circulation.
2. J Psychosom Res., Halford JB, Anderson SD., Anxiety and depression in tinnitus sufferers, 1991;35(4-5):383-90.
3. Lockwood AH, Salvi RJ, Burkard RF. Tinnitus. N Engl J Med 2002;347:904–910.
4. Dobie RA. Overview: suffering from tinnitus. In: Snow JBTinnitus: theory and management. Ontario: BC Decker Inc; 2004. pp. 1-7.
6. Dobie RA. A review of randomized clinical trials in tinnitus. Laryngoscope 1999;109:1202–1211.
7. Tyler RS. Neurophysiological models, psychological models, and treatments for tinnitus. In: Tyler RS Tinnitus treatment. New York: Thieme; 2006. pp. 1-22.
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* All material and information provided in this article, as well as attached links, are provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace your primary healthcare practitioner's advice or to be used as a way to diagnose yourself or a form of treatment, and should not be construed as personal medical advice. Nor is any information contained on or in any product label or packaging intended to provide or replace professional health care advice. No medical action should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should use the information provided to consult with appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being. Do not stop taking any medication without first consulting your doctor. This information is provided by Get Well Natural, LLC with the understanding that Get Well Natural, LLC is not engaged in the practice of medicine or any other health-care profession and does not enter into a health-care practitioner/patient relationship with its readers.