It may start off as a buzzing or a light whirring in your ears, possibly turning into intermittent hissing or a chronic chirping that does not go away. Soon you might have a paralyzing sound that just won’t stop.
While it may seem innocuous at first, the constant ringing may eventually take its toll on your life, your work, and your sanity. This is the daily struggle that those who suffer from tinnitus face and they desperately seek the solace that only peace and quiet can bring.
For many tinnitus sufferers, the search for relief can be frustrating and long. It could be because they are seeking to address the effect of the disease – the constant ringing in their ears – as opposed to the cause. To truly find relief from tinnitus it is first important to learn more about what it is and, more importantly, what causes it.
What Is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is commonly defined as hearing a sound in the absence of external sounds. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, over 50 million people have experienced tinnitus or head noises without an external source being present. Tinnitus can be mild to severe with some sufferers distressed so much that the quality of their life and work is negatively affected.
Symptoms include buzzing in the ears ranging from a quite ringing to a full on loud chirping or whirring that does not go away. The tinnitus patient is the only one who can hear the sound… unless it is caused, for example, by blood flow changes near the ear that a doctor with a stethoscope can detect… and as such it often presents a host of psychological, physical, and social problems including:
- Elevated anxiety resulting in fear that the noise will increase or never disappear, and even slowly drive them insane
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Depressive symptoms that worsen over time
- Anger due to failure to find relief
- Work and life slowly getting affected by constant noise, slower reaction times, poor accuracy, and even shortened reading span
If left untreated, tinnitus can impact your whole life.
What causes tinnitus?
Like with any health challenge, it is important to understand the cause or causes of tinnitus in order to successfully manage it.
This may be more complicated than it seems.
It is important to see your health professional to rule out fixable or more serious causes, including:
– Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) issues
– Hearing loss (although it is estimated that 40% of people with tinnitus have normal hearing)
– An acoustic neuroma (a benign tumour)
– Underlying cardiovascular issues altering the flow of nearby blood vessels
– Medications. And on this note, according to Tinnitus.org.uk, medications that can cause tinnitus include quinine, aminoglycoside antibiotics, cytotoxic drugs used in cancer treatment, diuretics,
And for the bulk of sufferers?
On the superficial level, most patients who suffer tinnitus believe that it is an auditory or hearing condition alone. After all, the buzzing is in the ears. However, to say it is a problem of the ears is to not look at the big picture. This is why many mainstream approaches like pharmacologic medicines often fail. They are only treating part of the problem and not looking at the underlying cause.
Tinnitus isn’t something that happens in your ears only. It is something that happens in your brain. By understanding this you are already on the road to finding real relief.
The brain is a complex organ which runs the entire body. To do so it is made up of billions of neurons and nerve ends responsible for connecting and communicating with the body. To keep the body running well, neurological health is key. Understandably, when complications occur in the way the brain communicates to other parts the body and within itself, problems can arise.
This is what happens in tinnitus patients. There are widespread and abnormal links between two important brain systems: the limbic system and the auditory system. The limbic system is responsible for your emotions, memory, and behavior while the auditory system is responsible for your hearing. This system stretches from your ear to your brain and thalamus, an integral part of the limbic system.
Scientific study has shown that the limbic system acts as a “gatekeeper” to stop tinnitus producing signals from reaching the auditory cortex – the part of the brain that mediates our perception of sound. For tinnitus patients, it has been postulated that this “gate” has been broken resulting in the constant whirring and irritating ringing in the ears.
Coping With Tinnitus: Natural Remedies For Tinnitus
Tinnitus can be devastating in life, work, and relationships but there are ways to help cope and find lasting relief. Here are seven ways you can deal with that non-stop buzzing and find some respite.
Whether you have acute or chronic tinnitus, for many people it will, at some point, simply disappear. For others, coping strategies like those above are important. Never discount tinnitus and seek the help you need.
1. Avoid stimulants to the nervous system – Cut back on nervous system stimulants including alcoholic beverages or excessive caffeine. Additionally, if you are a smoker now is the time to quit. Nicotine use may cause tinnitus by reducing blood flow to the structures of your ear.
2. Counselling – Living with tinnitus can be difficult, especially when the constant ringing in your ears is making you question your sanity. Counseling and therapy can be a much-needed comfort to those who need to talk to someone about what they are experiencing. A counselor may also try cognitive behavioral therapies, which can help
3. Sleep and avoiding fatigue – There are many contributing factors that can make tinnitus worse for patients. Studies have shown that lack of sleep can contribute to worsening this problem. Like most conditions, in order to properly function – and alleviate symptoms – your body needs proper rest. Lack of sleep may irritate and exacerbate your tinnitus
4. Avoid anxiety and stress – Stress is the silent killer. In most medical conditions it is a contributing factor and tinnitus is no different. Patients who are exposed to more stress tend to suffer more than those who are able to avoid or minimise stress. If at all possible, keep your stress levels low or manageable to help improve tinnitus
5. A balanced diet – Eating well is beneficial to your overall health. As with avoiding stress, a balanced diet improves health which, in turn, helps you cope with all illness, including tinnitus. Eat freshly prepared food and avoid excessive salt, sugar, and unhealthy fat intake. Speaking of fat, your brain is made from water and fat, so ensure you maintain a healthy intake of both. Fresh fruit may include bananas, papayas, mangoes, and pears. Additionally, pineapple is a delicious treat that is high in potassium and can help naturally lower blood pressure allowing blood to circulate efficiently throughout the body
6. Acupuncture – While mainstream medication has been found lacking in providing tinnitus relief, alternative methods may present partial relief. A study on tinnitus patients from the Clinic of Tinnitus of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery of the UNIFESP-EPM showed that acupuncture was able to provide partial relief and a lessening of the buzzing and ringing. Though the results were not long lasting, the respite provided was certainly useful
7. Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) – The brain is incredibly plastic, able to alter its patterns and its very structure. TRT uses this ability as an effective treatment for tinnitus.As www.AudiologyOnline.com states:The two main components of TRT are:1) educational counseling (which is intensive, individualized and interactive) and,
2) sound therapy
The journal article Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) as a Method for Treatment of Tinnitus and Hyperacusis Patients noted “TRT appears to be highly effective for both tinnitus and hyperacusis, can be used to treat all types of patients, does not require frequent visits, and does not interfere with hearing, and there are no negative side effects.”
With this kind of positive response and safety history, TRT in combination with the other six approaches could we just what you need!
Dr. Rebecca Harwin
Chiropractor & Multi-book Author