That ringing in your ears, yeah, it is just you. But you’re not crazy, even though what you’re experiencing is in fact in your head. And you’re certainly not alone if you suffer from tinnitus: 1 in 5 Americans have the condition that’s characterized by the perception of sound in the absence of an actual external sound. That’s 50 million American adults who experience tinnitus, 20 million of which suffer from it chronically, while for 2 million people, the condition is severe. [SOURCE]
Tinnitus is one of the least understood conditions. Some people assume it’s an annoyance; a trivial high-pitch noise that comes and goes. But it’s actually a very serious condition. It can trigger depression (or depression can make tinnitus worse) and lead to suicidal thoughts. And unfortunately, to date, there is no cure for it.
It’s important not to ignore symptoms. Tinnitus can lead to a domino effect, causing:
- Chronic fatigue
- Cognitive dysfunction
- Anxiety and irritability
In this article, we’ll cover some different natural tinnitus treatment options. Keep in mind that managing or reversing the condition requires a holistic course of action. One tip or strategy may offer relief. But it’s more likely that you’ll experience better results by adopting several of these recommendations.
Causes of Tinnitus
Some people, doctors included, would have you believe that phantom sounds are a problem of the inner ear, or auditory system. Yes, it’s true that being exposed to loud noises can indeed damage or kill the tiny hair cells in the ear that help interpret sound. But tinnitus is actually more of a problem of the brain and central nervous system than the auditory system.
Many people also believe that exposure to loud noise is the primary cause of tinnitus. What many people don’t realize, however, is that stress is a huge contributor to the condition. When you combine loud noise exposure and stress, you have a recipe for chronic ringing in the ears.
That’s why U.S. veterans come home from training or battle with high cases of tinnitus. Especially when the ear plugs they are using are defective. (See: 3M Executives Knew Combat Earplugs Were Defective). The Veterans Administration pays more medical benefits for tinnitus and hearing loss than any other condition; PTSD is the third most prevalent.
As you’ll read in the sections below, managing stress will be a key factor in minimizing how often you experience tinnitus.
But before we explore natural tinnitus treatments, let’s look at another potential trigger…
If you’re not a musician, construction worker or veteran who was exposed to loud noises over the years, the source of the phantom sounds you, and only you, are hearing are perhaps a mystery to you.
Could it be that the medications you have taken over the years have contributed? Tinnitus is listed as a possible side effect for the following types of drugs:
- NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories)
This study in an audiology journal concludes that there’s a link between experiencing tinnitus for the first time while being treated with chemotherapy as well as with certain antibiotics (especially cisplatin and carboplatin). The number of drugs or chemicals that are potentially toxic to the inner ear, according to this research in the journal Drug Safety numbers at least 130.
Finally, other causes that aren’t as obvious as continuous exposure to loud noises include ear infections and growths (including tumors) in the auditory canal.
Holistic Treatment For Ringing In The Ears
As mentioned above, managing stress is very important if you want to successfully manage your condition. In fact, according to the Journal of Clinical Neurology, emotional stress is the trigger for approximately 75% of new cases, rather than damage to the inner ear (cochlear lesions).
In order to lower stress levels, you need to eat a healthy diet, exercise, and get plenty of rest and sleep, avoid free radical damage from smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
#1: Managing tinnitus through sleep
Getting a consistent good night sleep can help control stress. People with insomnia may benefit from taking a melatonin supplement. Melatonin is the so-called sleep hormone. This research says melatonin is associated with a statistically significant decrease in tinnitus intensity and improved sleep quality in patients who chronically experience the phantom noises. Among the subjects in which melatonin was deemed most effective included those with a history of noise exposure.
According to a small study in Biomedical Journal, the mineral, zinc, is an excellent antioxidant for noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) tinnitus sufferers. Twenty patients with NIHL were given a zinc supplement for two months. The researchers concluded that the 20 patients given zinc showed significant improvement based on their Tinnitus Handicap Index (THI) scores.
According to this research study, there’s a relationship between vitamin B12 deficiency and dysfunction of the auditory pathway. Grass-fed beef and salmon are foods that naturally have high levels of vitamin B12. However, in order for your body to assimilate vitamin B12, you need enough good bacteria in your gut. Fermented foods and probiotic supplements are two ways to build up the number of friendly bacteria in your GI tract. [Taking antacids can reduce the amount of good bacteria in your gut.]
#4: Ginkgo Biloba
The herb ginkgo biloba is perhaps best known as a memory booster. And according to an article in the Tinnitus Journal, the popular herb may be effective for occasional ringing in the ears (or any other sound you may experience when the condition strikes). However, the authors concede that the results of the studies on ginkgo are mixed because there are many factors that determine the severity of the condition.
#5: Traditional Chinese Medicine
In 2016, this review of several studies on the effects of acupuncture on tinnitus concluded the following:
“Analysis of the combined data found that the acupuncture treatments seemed to provide some advantages over conventional therapies for tinnitus. “
Although more research is needed, there aren’t any studies that suggest acupuncture worsens the condition; it might be worth a try.
Traditional Chinese herbs may also help. In Chinese herbal theory, the kidney organ system influences the ears. And when kidney function weakens (because of stress) a buzzing in the ears may manifest (along with lower back pain). Therefore, Chinese herbs that strengthen kidney function may help alleviate tinnitus. The formula, Er Long Zuo Ci Pian, is a classic Chinese herbal remedy for weak kidneys.
In Western medicine, weakened kidney function can also be a root cause of tinnitus. That’s because the kidneys are situated just below the adrenal glands. Chronic stress forces the adrenal glands to work overtime in order to produce stress hormones such as cortisol. Chronic stress eventually weakens the adrenal glands. And, in fact, according to the National Kidney Foundation, stress and uncontrolled reactions to stress can also lead to kidney damage.
According to a small study in the Journal of Chiropractic and Osteoplasty, getting a chiropractic adjustment, which involves a manipulation of the neuromusculoskeletal system, can influence the auditory system. In the study, 86% of patients experienced dramatic improvement or complete restoration of hearing after being adjusted.
Other methods that relax the neck muscles and therefore may help lessen the severity, according to the International Tinnitus Journal, include:
- The Alexander method (which focuses on posture)
- Autogenous training (a relaxation technique)
- The Brügger method (reprogramming muscles; useful for scoliosis)
- Craniosacral therapy (gentle touch that realigns sections of the skull)
- Feldenkrais (Subtle exercises that reorganize connections between the brain and body)
One of the best ways to manage stress is by practicing daily meditation. With so many apps on smartphones to choose from, many of them free, it’s never been easier to learn how to meditate and stick with it. (Watch a former tinnitus sufferer here on YouTube explain how meditation benefited him).
#8: Intermittent Fasting
The process of “autophagy” involves the body repairing itself. Autophagy is achieved through fasting. You don’t have to starve yourself, however, to get the benefits. All that’s required is a period of time of 12 or more hours (16 is ideal) in between completion of dinner and the start of breakfast. (Example: finish dinner by 8 p.m. and don’t have anything with calories until at least 8 a.m.)
According to this study in Frontiers in Science, “autophagy may be involved in contributing to and facilitating the normal function of inner ear cells.” This, of course, may help manage tinnitus. Fasting, in general, helps to restore the nervous system. And hopefully, after reading this far down, you’ve realized that tinnitus is very much a disease of the nervous system and not merely one of the inner ear.
#9: Ear Exercises
Try performing a couple rounds of the following easy ear movement, after making sure to remove earrings and hearing aids:
- Grab your ear lobe
- Gently but quickly pull up and away quickly on the ear lobe 5 times
- That’s it! The movement is like a reset for your inner ear.
If you feel a pop, that’s perfectly normal, and is an indication that the exercise is working.
A couple other easy exercises to try: rub your temples and simulate yawning motions with your mouth.
Similar to a system upgrade for your computer, neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to form and reorganize connections. People who have experienced an injury have had success with this treatment.
This study concludes that tinnitus should be considered a ‘constellation’ of neural changes, which explains why tinnitus is not properly managed with just one treatment method. “Indeed, future treatment strategies may have to target multiple factors at the same time,” the authors write.
Things To Avoid If You Have Tinnitus
Because stress can make tinnitus difficult to manage, avoid all triggers, some of which may not be obvious to you, including these 5:
- Sugar: The crash after a sugar high can make you feel more anxious and irritable.
- Excess caffeine: Having more than a couple cups of coffee produces excess stress hormones.
- Salty food: Stress causes people to retain salt, which can lead to high blood pressure.
- Negative or confrontational people: For obvious reasons.
- Violent TV shows and movies: While entertaining, violent shows spike levels of stress hormones.
Instead of watching negative, anxiety-fueling news broadcasts (or reading social media posts that stimulate your stress response), listen to positive, reinforcing messages through guided meditations.
And last but not least, let’s state the obvious: avoid loud concerts and don’t go to movie theaters. Try to avoid any noises over 100 decibels. Hold your ears when an ambulance, train, or plane roars past.
When you get a paper cut, your body starts healing itself instantly. Although tinnitus is obviously more problematic than a paper cut, your brain and central nervous system will do everything in its power to restore balance. If you can significantly lower your stress triggers, you will likely experience an improvement with this disability that affects 20% of the U.S. adult population.
What do you do to manage tinnitus? Leave a comment.