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Alternative Medicine Treatments for Ringing in the Ears

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Natural Treatments

Tinnitus can have many causes including allergies, high blood pressure, dental work, neck injury, tumors and a wide variety of other conditions. As such, it is important to always have the condition evaluated by a doctor. Though many cases of tinnitus are idiopathic, meaning their cause is unknown, the condition usually does not occur in isolation. Many of the symptoms associated with tinnitus, such as nystagmus, vertigo, hearing loss and noise sensitivity, do have established causes and treatments. As such, it may be logical to consider the possibility that the conditions that occur along with ringing in the ears share a common root cause and treatment, and that clearing up a condition such as noise sensitivity may also improve the associated tinnitus.

"Virtually all cases of sudden tinnitus are associated with other symptoms, such as hearing loss, pain, headache, fullness in the ear, vertigo, nasal congestion, otorrhea, nystagmus, or hyperacusis. The reader is referred to topics dealing with the management of these related symptoms. Tinnitus is seldom a solitary symptom." 1

From Auditory Dysfunction: Tinnitus

Listed below are some alternative medicine considerations that may be helpful for tinnitus, though obviously the most appropriate remedy would depend on the root cause of the condition.

Diet
Vitamin B12 deficiency has been linked to tinnitus in at least one study. 2 I personally had nutrition testing done just prior to developing tinnitus and was found to be low in vitamin B12.
(Click here for a list of foods high in vitamin B12.) In order to absorb vitamin B12, people need to have enough stomach acid. In my case I think I was low in vitamin B12 because I was eating too many alkaline foods that lowered my stomach acid Despite having a diet high in B12 rich foods, I think I became deficient because I wasn't able to properly absorb what I was eating.

Hearing Loss
I am not aware of any studies directly linking low levels of magnesium
to tinnitus, but nutrition testing conducted right before I had tinnitus showed I was deficient in magnesium as well as vitamin B12. Interestingly, in a number of studies, researchers have found that magnesium deficiency is linked to noise induced hearing loss, 3 and hearing loss from loud noises is often linked to ringing in the ears. As such, it would be logical to suspect that magnesium deficiency may play a role in tinnitus for some people.

In any event, there is little downside in making sure to consume foods with the RDA recommendations for magnesium developed by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, and it may have a positive impact on one's hearing issues as well. Magnesium is needed for hundreds of different functions throughout the body, so besides hearing loss a deficiency of this important mineral has been implicated from conditions that include diabetes, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, tics, heart disease and migraines.

It is probably best to avoid coffee, tea and other substances with caffeine if you have ringing in your ears as caffeine can deplete magnesium levels. Alcohol is another substance that can deplete magnesium levels that has also been linked to tinnitus. (One school of thought is that hangovers that make people light and sound sensitive may actually be acute, short term episodes of magnesium deficiency brought on from drinking too many alcoholic beverages.)

Noise Sensitivity (Hyperacusis)
Tinnitus that occurs in conjunction with noise sensitivity may also be related to magnesium deficiency. For more information on this, see my section on sensitive hearing. For some people and animals, magnesium deficiency may make them anxiety prone and hypersensitive to stimuli such as loud noises and bright lights. I have known family members and even a pet guinea pig to overcome noise sensitivity just by increasing the amount of magnesium rich foods in their diets.

  Headphones make it easy to turn up the volume without realizing how loud the music can be.

Environmental Exposure to Loud Sounds
Avoiding exposure to loud noises may help tinnitus. Personally, I have to be careful about how loud I turn the music up in the car and when I'm listening to CDs using head phones. I've noticed that even when I think I have the music on pretty softly sometimes my ears will start ringing after I take my head phones off. If you have to do tasks like yard work that require noisy equipment such as lawn mowers or leaf blowers, it is a good idea to wear ear protectors. It's also may be helpful to avoid rock concerts and night clubs with very loud music.

Food Diary
I found keeping track of everything I ate for a few days and then rating the level of my tinnitus after each meal or snack to be helpful. I noticed my ears would ring more after eating soup.

It is established that drugs such as aspirin may cause tinnitus. However it is less well known that there are many common foods that contain salicylates, or aspirin like substances. As such, it may be prudent for chronic tinnitus sufferers to monitor what they eat to see if there are any correlations between their diets and their hearing problems. In Prescription for Herbal Healing 4, author Phyllis A. Balch recommends avoiding high salicylate foods including:

  • Almonds
  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Berries
  • Cherries
  • Cucumbers
  • Grapes
  • Nectarines
  • Oranges
  • Peaches
  • Pickles
  • Plums
  • Prunes
  • Raisins
  • Tomatoes
  • Wine

Medications
Many prescription and over the counter medications have tinnitus listed as a side effect.
People taking medications who develop this condition are usually advised to review their medications with their doctors to see if their ear noises could be from a side effect of the medication. Aspirin, quinine, and ibuprofen are just a few of the known medications that may cause hearing damage.

TMJ (Temporal Mandibular Joint Disorder)
Many people report ringing in their ears along with symptoms of TMJ. Click here for my section on diet and exercise treatments I found helpful for TMJ. In my case my TMJ was caused by a lowered shoulder pulling down on my neck, jaw and ear. I personally didn't have ringing in my ears when I had TMJ, but I did have problems with plugged ears and frequent ear infections during that time.

Nystagmus (Wobbly or Shaky Eyes)
Nystagmus is another condition that often occurs in conjunction with tinnitus. Some studies have linked nystagmus to magnesium and thiamin deficiencies. My son, who has also had problems in the past with sensitive hearing, developed nystagmus from exposure to both mold, bus fumes and the chemicals in pressed wood. Avoidance of exposure to these substances and diet changes to increase his levels of minerals such as zinc and magnesium, which are needed by the body to detoxify foreign substances, have prevented him from experiencing any recurrence of the nystagmus.


The Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients, October 2002, a souce of alternative health information, has an article by Jonathan Collins that mocks Western medicine's use of background noise as a treatment for tinnitus. Of course, this is really just masking the problem, not finding and correcting the root cause. Dr. Collins notes how he has had patients come to him who correct their tinnitus by using supplements and modifying their diet, weight and exercise habits.

Ringing in the Ears and Vitamin B12 Deficiency

A 1993 study conducted by researchers from the Institute of Noise Hazards Research and Evoked Potentials Laboratory, IDF, Chaim-Sheba Medical Center in Ramat-Gan, Israel found a link between vitamin B12 deficiency and tinnitus. The study consisted of three groups:

1) patients with normal hearing

2) patients with chronic tinnitus and noise induced hearing loss;

3) patients with noise induced hearing loss only.

Serum vitamin B12 levels were measured in all three groups. A vitamin b12 deficiency was found in forty-seven percent of the patients with tinnitus and hearing loss. Nineteen percent of the subjects with normal hearing were deficiency in B12, as were twenty-seven percent of the hearing loss only group.

Following vitamin B12 replacement therapy, 12 of the patients with tinnitus showed improvement. As such, the researchers who conducted the study recommended that routine vitamin B12 serum levels be determined when patients are evaluated for chronic tinnitus.

Summary

Tinnitus can occur from a variety of causes. Medical professionals estimate that 85% of the causes of ringing in the ears is unknown. Yet the condition seldom occurs in isolation, and many of the related conditions do have established causes and in many cases natural treatments. As such, it would be highly logical to consider focusing on clearing up any related conditions such as nystagmus, sensitive hearing and TMJ in chronic tinnitus patients since theses conditions tend to occur together and may all share root causative factors.

A study from Israel found that tinnitus is associated with a vitamin B12 deficiency, and that patients improved with vitamin B12 therapy. Magnesium deficiency is linked to many of the conditions that occur along with tinnitus, and seems to be another nutrient that is needed for proper hearing. With these links in mind, it may be logical for health care professionals to consider nutrition testing and keeping diet diaries as part of the treatment plans for chronic tinnitus patients.

Related Pages:

TMJ: Exercise and Diet Treatments - covers the many factors that played a role on my TMJ recovery.

Nystagmus - the links to magnesium and thiamin deficiencies.

My experience and treatments for the symptoms of vertigo, nausea and cold feet.

Stretches For Vertigo - Relaxing tight muscles helped me to stop the spinning feeling.

 

 

 

References:

1. Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations 3rd ed. Walker, H.K.; Hall, W.D.; Hurst, J.W., editors, Stoneham (MA): Butterworth Publishers; c1990

2. Shemesh Z, Attias J, Ornan M, Shapira N, Shahar A.,"Vitamin B12 deficiency in patients with chronic-tinnitus and noise-induced hearing loss." American Journal of Otolaryngology, 1993 Mar-Apr;14(2):94-9.

3. Attias J, Weisz G, Almog S, Shahar A, Wiener M, Joachims Z, Netzer A, Ising H, Rebentisch E, Guenther T., "Oral magnesium intake reduces permanent hearing loss induced by noise exposure." American Journal of Otolaryngology. 1994 Jan-Feb;15(1):26-32.

4. Balch, Phyllis A.. 2002. Prescription for Herbal Healing. New York: Avery Books.


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