ASK THE DOCTOR: Natural Relief for Tinnitus
Dear Dr. Rona:
What do you recommend for tinnitus (ringing in the ears)? ~ Mike
Ringing in the ears (tinnitus) is an extremely common complaint (12 million Americans suffer from the annoying problem), and may occur as a symptom of nearly any ear disorder including obstruction of the external auditory canal by wax and foreign bodies, Meniere’s disease, infectious disease involving the outer, inner or middle ear, anxiety neurosis, Eustachian tube obstruction, allergies, otosclerosis (an abnormal growth of bone of the middle ear), noise induced hearing loss and trauma (e.g. as in the case of a skull fracture). Low frequency vibratory clicks, pops, roarings, etc., are usually due to contraction of muscles of the Eustachian tube, middle ear, palate or pharynx and are not considered to be in the same category. TMJ (temperomandibular joint dysfunction) can also be associated at times with tinnitus.
Tinnitus may also be associated with high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, anemia, a low thyroid condition, the candidiasis hypersensitivity syndrome, heavy metal toxicity (lead, mercury, aluminum and cadmium), carbon monoxide exposure, aspirin, and drugs such as diuretics, antibiotics, quinine and alcohol. Dental fillings that use silver, mercury, copper, and other metals may be responsible for a long list of neurological problems that include ringing in the ears. So can root canal work of all types.
In regards to treatment, conventional doctors often prescribe drugs like Serc, antihistamines, tranquilizers and antidepressants to suppress the symptoms. In rare cases, surgery is offered but only if there is some sort of obstructive lesion that can be repaired in that way.
If the conventional approaches fail to correct the ringing, a number of safe, natural alternatives can be tried. For example, studies show that diet changes can make a difference. More specifically, studies have shown that dietary measures taken to reduce blood levels of cholesterol and saturated fat helps improve the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the inner ear. One study on a group of 1400 patients demonstrated benefits when saturated animal fats were reduced in the diet. (Becoming a vegan has its benefits.)
Other studies show symptom improvement when sugar is eliminated from the diet. Inner ear problems and low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) have been shown to be associated with tinnitus as far back as 1954. Other researchers report that salicylate-free diets benefit some cases. As with most diet therapies, biochemical individuality will dictate effectiveness. Allergies, particularly food allergies, can cause fluid retention in the labyrinth. Excessive salt in the diet can do the same. A trial therapy with an elimination diet and a salt-free diet is worth doing in very resistive cases.
Over the years, doctors have noted that supplementation of the diet with high doses of niacin (vitamin B3), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), and other B vitamins eliminates the ear-ringing in some patients for whom the cause is unknown. Inner ear problems may also be helped by supplementation with vitamins A, D, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iodine, zinc and omega-3-EPA oils (found in cod, halibut, trout, salmon, herring and mackerel). Ginkgo biloba extract (G.B.E.) and ginger are two safe herbs, which have been reported to reduce or eliminate tinnitus. G.B.E. improves blood supply to the brain and has a significant free radical scavenging effect.
The famous Dr. Andrew Weil claims that osteopathic manipulation may help some people get relief from tinnitus. I suspect that chiropractic and craniosacral therapy would also work. Finally, a recent study indicates that the hormone, melatonin, can help the problem. The usual effective dose is 3 mg before bedtime. Discuss these complementary medicine treatment options with your naturopath or medical doctor.