In his memoirs, the famous Italian artist Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni had written that he excessively heard the chirping of crickets. Unfortunately for Michelangelo, he had the problem known as tinnitus—also commonly called chronic ringing in the ears. In Latin, the word tinnire translates as “ringing.”
Today, tinnitus is quite common and affects about one in five people. A 2014 report published in the journal Frontiers in Neurology stated that tinnitus is one of the most somatic symptoms to affect people. The neurological and audiological condition affects nearly 50 million Americans, according to the American Tinnitus Association.
Most experts believe that tinnitus is not a disorder, but rather it is symptom of another underlying disorder that affects nerves near the ears and auditory sensations. Tinnitus can be classified as subjective or objective. In subjective tinnitus, sounds can only be heard from the patient; however, in objective tinnitus, a doctor can use a stethoscope near the affected ear and pick up the sounds.
Tinnitus (Ringing in the Ears) Symptoms
Tinnitus causes ringing in the ears, but it also produces abnormal sounds and sensations. Some also describe tinnitus as the perception of noise or ringing in the ears, or hearing sounds when there is no external sound. The following are the most common tinnitus symptoms and signs:
- Hearing phantom sounds that can include buzzing, clicking, ringing, sizzling, humming, hissing, whistling, or roaring. The sound can also be described as the sounds of a heartbeat, breathing, escaping air, or the inside swirling of a seashell.
- Tinnitus may come to one ear at a time or both ears.
- People with tinnitus also report that sounds change in terms of their pitch, onset, intensity, type, and volume. The sounds will stop and go, and they can sometimes be slow and soft or may become faster and louder.
- It is also possible to hear voices and musical sounds, although the underlying cause here could be drug use or psychological problems.
- The person with tinnitus may feel disturbed by their symptoms and experience mood-related and psychological problems as a result. In cases of an incurable tinnitus situation, it is common to experience depression, anxiety, irritability, fatigue, and insomnia.
- Loud sounds from tinnitus can interfere with the ability to hear actual sounds or concentrate. This can lead to confusion, trouble focusing, brain fog, and problems with speech.
- Tinnitus will also worsen with age, and it is common in older adults who suffer from hearing loss. In this case, tinnitus is due to inflammation, nerve damage, and circulatory problems.
Tinnitus Causes and Risk Factors
Damage to the middle or inner ear is a possible cause of tinnitus. The middle ear will pick up sound waves and prompt the inner eat to transmit electrical impulses to the brain. The brain will accept these signals and translate them into sounds. Other times, the inner ear will sustain damage, which alters how the brain processes sound. Most of the time, tinnitus is not linked to a serious disorder, but there are some cases in which it is.
Specific conditions that will cause tinnitus symptoms include ear canal obstructions, injuries, infections, or surgeries; cranial nerve tumors; anemia; arteriosclerosis or hypertension; Eustachian tube patency; cervical spondylosis; Meniere’s disease; and overdosing on certain medications, alcohol, or recreational drugs.
Some risk factors thought to be associated with tinnitus include having a history of ear infections or ear disorders; experiencing TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder) symptoms, or head, jaw, or neck injuries; nerve damage; cardiovascular disorders that affect arteries, nerves, and blood flow; overcoming an upper respiratory infection, ear infection, or a cold; hearing loss tied to aging; being exposed to a high level of noise pollution; having acute insomnia, depression, or anxiety; or having a history of drug use or excessive alcohol consumption. Tinnitus is also more common in men than women.
10 Natural Tinnitus Treatments
A large amount of people with persistent tinnitus will develop depression and anxiety. Tinnitus that lasts longer than six months is considered difficult to treat, and sometimes it cannot be treated at all when irreversible and permanent damage to the nerves or ears has occurred. However, many patients will seek out natural tinnitus treatments and coping mechanisms. Evidence also suggests that nutritional supplements can combat deficiencies, which are also thought to contribute to ringing in the ears.
How should you treat your tinnitus symptoms? Patients with chronic tinnitus should become educated on how best to deal with symptoms. Some people will try a masking device, and others will take medications to help reduce the sounds. That being said, drugs to treat ringing in the ears will produce side effects like blurry vision, constipation, fatigue, and nausea. Tinnitus treatment will include avoiding loud noises, preventing ear infections, avoiding drug use, and using certain hearing aids. The following is a detailed look at 10 natural tinnitus treatment options.
1. Counseling and Coping Strategies
Tinnitus coping mechanisms include talking with a counselor or joining a support group. These coping strategies are useful for the management of the emotional side of tinnitus, including sleeping trouble, anxiety, depression, and a lack of focus. Some patients choose to get involved with tinnitus retraining. This involves counseling and wearing ear devices that provide soothing noise or music. This helps the brain and body get accustomed to tinnitus, and this decreases your negative reactions to the unwanted noises.
2. Masking Devices
Hearing aids and masking devices will serve as sound therapies that can help reduce the intensity of unwanted sounds or increase environmental sounds. A white-noise medicine and other sleep machines can help you relax, sleep, and concentrate. Electronic devices, like free apps on your phone, will also help suppress tinnitus noise. Natural sources of light noise can also help, such as humidifiers or dehumidifiers, fans, and air conditioners.
3. Avoid Loud Noises
Exposure to very loud noises can lead to hearing loss and ear problems like tinnitus. These loud noises can come from construction equipment, heavy machinery, car accidents, gunshots, and loud concerts. Portable music devices and technology also contribute to noise pollution. It is a good idea to keep your music player or phone volume lower when using headphones. Also, limit headphone use and wear earplugs when around loud noises.
4. Reduce Chronic Stress and Inflammation
High levels of inflammation and stress also increase the risk of ear problems. Stress can also worsen tinnitus symptoms due to how the brain reacts to noise. Research shows that cognitive behavioral therapy can reduce tinnitus and other stresses. It is helpful to try natural stress relievers like yoga, exercising, taking warm baths, meditating, the emotional freedom technique (EFT), spending time outdoors, using essential oils, and eating a diet of anti-inflammatory and plant-based foods.
5. Avoid Stimulants and Certain Drugs
Some medications and drugs will worsen tinnitus symptoms. Drinking too much alcohol and smoking are also linked with tinnitus. Common drugs that contribute to tinnitus include aminoglycosides, psychotropic drugs, ototoxins, cancer medication, diuretics, some antidepressants, quinine medications, high doses of Aspirin, and certain antibiotics like vancomycin and neomycin. Speak to your doctor about lowering your dosage, changing your medication, or finding another way to manage your condition.
6. Quit Using Q-Tips
Many people will clean out earwax from their ears with cotton swabs. However, this can lead to earwax blockage, ear damage, and ear infections. Earwax protects your ear canal by trapping bacteria and dirt. Sticking anything inside your ear canal can damage or irritate the inside of the ear, and it can also make tinnitus treatment more difficult. Talk to your doctor about safely removing earwax if you have excessive amounts lodged in your ears.
7. Nutritional Intervention
Evidence published in the American Journal of Otolaryngology in 1993 found that vitamin B12 deficiency is common in 47% of tinnitus patients. Some improvement was seen in patients given vitamin B12 supplementation. Studies also showed that replenishing depleted coenzyme Q10 and zinc levels can also improve tinnitus symptoms. Melatonin also shows promise in decreasing the intensity of tinnitus while also improving sleep quality in chronic tinnitus patients.
8. Herbal Treatment
A study published in the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment in 2011 concluded that a standardized Ginkgo biloba extract is an evidence-based treatment for tinnitus. Other herbal remedies thought to be useful in the treatment of tinnitus include dogwood, hawthorn lead, black cohosh, Pycnogenol, bayberry, and Japanese cornel.
Several studies have found that various types of acupuncture can have therapeutic value in a natural tinnitus treatment. For example, a study published in Chinese Acupuncture & Moxibustion in 2007 found that acupuncture treatments had an obvious therapeutic effect on tinnitus patients at the cervical Jiaji acupoint.
There are several homeopathic remedies used for the natural treatment of tinnitus; however, for the one that best matches your symptoms, consult a trained homeopath. Remedies often used in the treatment of tinnitus include carboneum sulphuratum, causticum, chenopodium, chininum sulphuratum, conium, natrum salicylicum, saliclicum acidum, and tabacum.
Tinnitus: A Pain in the Ear
In summary, tinnitus is classified as unexplained ringing in the ears that is very difficult to treat. Tinnitus is likely a symptom of a larger health problem, and it often affects older adults as well as men more often. A natural treatment for tinnitus can include counseling, masking devices, reducing noise pollution exposure, preventing ear infections, and using hearing devices or aids. Other natural tinnitus treatment methods include homeopathic remedies, acupuncture, herbal treatments like Ginkgo biloba, and reversing nutritional deficiencies like CoQ10, vitamin B12, and zinc.
If you notice tinnitus symptoms without any apparent cause, visit your doctor immediately. This is especially important if you notice other symptoms like hearing loss or dizziness. Ringing in the ears can also sometimes be triggered temporarily from acute illnesses like a cold, fever, or infection. Remember that if symptoms last more than a week after your recovery, consult a doctor to make sure that another health concern is a problem.
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